Scripture reflections – Sunday, July 3rd

Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9,11-13; Mt 11:25-30

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you ae in the spirit.”

Throughout the history of the Church, we have often completely missed Paul’s point in these words from Romans.  Words like these have been used to justify a heretical understanding of the Incarnation known in its’ original form as Gnosticism.  Gnostics held – still hold, because there are plenty of them around – that Spirit is perfectly good and flesh perfectly evil.  It’s an attitude perfectly captured in the “bird in a cage” analogy by the philosopher Plato.  The bird represents the soul and the cage the body. Death is the moment that the door opens and the bird is finally free.  It’s an image that suggests the relationship between flesh and spirit is one of constant antagonism and struggle.  It’s no surpise that gnostics denied the Incarnation – why would God who is all good go slumming in corrupt flesh?

St. Paul has a very different idea in mind when he speaks of “flesh” and “spirit”.  he didn’t think like a Greek – he thought like a Jew.  And in Judaism, the very notion that flesh and spirit could be separated is absurd.  To be human is to be an indivisible whole – flesh and spirit.  This is the reason that we who are the spiritual descendents of the Jews hold for a resurrection of the body as well as the soul.

When Paul says we are not in the flesh, he means we are not bound by the flesh.  Our horizons are not limited by the demands of the flesh – what we are to eat and drink and wear, as Jesus says.  We are, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, the lowest form of spiritual life. (Which is probably the only example of how being called a “low-life” can be an incredibly up-lifting thing.)  And so we can live in hope and joy no matter what life throws at us because we know we are more than our DNA.

For the person of the flesh, the cross is a dead end.  For the person of the spirit, the cross is always bathed in pure white light.

Jim Philipps (3rd millenium pilgrim)

(To find book-length collections of my reflections on scripture, go to


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