I just returned from the first lecture of 2011 in the Acton Lecture Series, and had the great pleasure of listening to Fr. Robert Sirico address the issue of poverty and prosperity, and how we Christians are supposed to deal with these. His remarks were fresh and insightful.
What struck me most was how much his lecture dove-tailed with my work on an up-coming lecture on Theology of the Body (at the Arise Conference at Aquinas College on Feb. 19). Although Fr. Sirico didn't give this topic as much time as I would have liked, his ideas on the material vs. spiritual were intriguing. We are not, he pointed out, merely material (body) or spiritual (soul) beings - we are integrated body/soul creations. However, when we meet a person, we are not encountering their soul first: we encounter body, and must patiently await the soul to be revealed.
This reinforces my experience as wife, mother, teacher, pastoral associate. While we make judgements based on first impressions and appearances (sometimes those judegments are faulty, sometimes not), it is only in relationship with others that true, deep knowledge is acquired. What is important is not my "stuff", but my relationship to that "stuff": am I owned by my material possessions, or am I a good steward of what I have? Are my relationships with others superficial, or soul-ful? Of course, this attitude also speaks to the way that we see all creation: is created matter just there, or does it suggest (and even proclaim) a deeper reality? (Is that thick blanket of snow that got dumped on us this week just frozen water falling out of the sky or does it lead me to contemplate our Creator God and His majesty? I guess that depends on whether I have to shovel or not.....)
Our culture - 21st century America - is superficial and possession-driven. There is no way to deny that. That does not mean I must be. Thanks for the reminder, Fr. Sirico.