We have a puzzling Gospel today, and we are not sure whether Jesus is puzzling us, or if it is St. Luke’s way of presenting the Gospel message that is puzzling us. Let’s try to figure it out.
Perhaps Our Lord’s recipe for happiness is the new wine that we cannot adjust to old ways of thought. Let me take a philosophical approach to our problem.
Both Plato and Aristotle believed we are made up of a body and a soul; but they differed in Plato’s saying that our souls were alive with God before our bodies were created, while Aristotle said that body and soul were created together at the moment of our conception.
Now, when we turn from philosophy to history, we learn that for Christianity’s first eleven hundred years, that it followed Plato, while for the last thousand years it has gone with Aristotle.
In the eleven hundred years while we went with Plato, we saw our bodies as the prisons that kept our souls from being with God; and that had our saints fasting and punishing their bodies to get them to release our souls.
By a quirk of Christian history, from the first centuries the teachings of Aristotle were carried off to Persia, while they were forgotten in Europe.
After the year 600 A.D., when Mohamad’s Muslims took over Persia, they profited by using Aristotle’s wide ranging studies in broadening their understanding of ethics, biology, and philosophy.
Then, after 1070 when the Christians defeated the Muslims at Toledo, Europe recovered Aristotle’s teaching, taking them to heart. We used them as the core of our universities’ curricula; and Thomas Aquinas used them as the basis of Catholic thought.
Rather than punishing our bodies, we make them the healthy partners of our souls, advocating healthy souls in healthy bodies.