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God wants total abandonment, body and soul, to His will

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Wayne ToppI don’t know how many people are like me. I consider myself a fairly good listener and have always been ready with what I have considered pretty good advice. I certainly have had my fair share of times when I have given bad advice as well, but good or bad, it seems the person who has the hardest time taking my advice is me. Then I went to the E6 Catholic Men’s Conference in Indiana and I heard a great talk by Christopher West that I hope will have reverberating effects on the rest of my life.

Mr. West is well known for his research and presentation on St. John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body that beautifully describes God’s plan for our bodies and, in particular, the gift of human sexuality. As West puts it, “The entire Bible can be summed up in five words, ‘God wants to marry us.’” He gave us a body so that we can experience a foretaste of that marriage here on earth and he will raise us, body and soul, into heaven on the last day where we will celebrate in the everlasting marriage banquet! While we are here on earth he wants us to use our bodies as they are intended, as a means of total self-gift to our beloved! As I listened to his talk I realized that this teaching on Theology of the Body can greatly impact vocational discernment as well and that is the thought that has plagued me for the past two weeks since that conference and through prayer I have only been hit harder with the reality!

We are made of both body and soul and God, in his great mercy wants to redeem us entirely, just as he was able to rise and take on his glorified body. It is interesting to note, however, that so many of our prayers of discernment and one of the most beautiful and my favorite, the prayer of abandonment do not say a word about our bodies. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this prayer and I should pray it more often, but for me, it doesn’t quite go far enough. For what good is it to abandon our will and our soul to the father if we aren’t also abandoning our bodies to him as well?

St. Paul gets it! In Philippians 3: 12-14 he says, “It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Here we see he has given his will over to Christ and he recognizes that it is only through the mercy of God that he has come so far, but he continues to say, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”

The life of a Christian disciple takes both a handing over of our will and a total sacrifice of our bodies. Jesus offered us everything. In fact, as he died, Jesus “gave up his Spirit” as well! He wants us to give him all as well and we can do that in little ways every day, but we have to DO it. It requires the action of our bodies. What that action is will be different for all of us. For me, that means actually getting out of bed when the alarm rings and actually doing the prayer I have promised God I would do; it’s actually getting to the gym that I’m paying for every month; it’s so many ordinary everyday opportunities to pray with my body!  In so doing, not only do we train our wills to the command of the Lord, we train our bodies to readily respond when the Lord calls.

Starting today, I am following my own advice, I’m praying for God’s will to be done in my life and I’m going to act like I mean it.

If you would like an opportunity to put your total abandonment into action, please consider joining the Run for the Call team for the Flying Pig Marathon. Visit
www.runforthecall.wordpress.com/theteam to sign up.

Wayne Topp is the assistant director of the Vocations  Office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. 

This column first appeared in the April 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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