Lent Day 24 – Animals and Angels

by Bishop Robert Barron

Medieval scholars said that the human being was a kind of microcosm, since he bore within himself the spiritual and the physical. Through his body, man reached down to the lower elements and was one with the animals and minerals, but through his mind, he reached upwards to God and the angels.

We know instinctively how right this is. On the one hand, we can explore the intricacies of mathematics and geometry. We can soar with Mozart and Shakespeare. We can design high-level computers and machines that can move through the galaxy. We can enter into the depth and silence of prayer, becoming as much like the angels as possible. In so many ways, we strain upward to our home among the spirits.

On the other hand, we are, like it or not, animals. We need food and drink. We get too hot and too cold. We experience instincts and emotions that often get the better of us. We revel in the sheer pleasure of the senses and the thrill of being touched. We love to run, to exercise our muscles. We exult in the rough and tumble of very physical competition and play.

This is our glory—in a sense we combine the best of both worlds—but it is also our agony. It is the source of much of our sadness and conflict for it entails that we are a hybrid, a half-breed, something of a metaphysical mongrel. We bring together two qualities that are at odds with each other. The spirit strains against the body, and the body strains against the spirit. Sometimes the spirit commands and the body refuses to obey; sometimes the body makes demands that the spirit cannot or will not accommodate. This tension is one of the faces of sin. It is the result of the dislocation between ourselves and God.

The harmony of spiritual and physical seems to be what God savors and intends: the spirit commanding the body, but the body also informing the spirit. There is a proper hierarchy between them, but it must never become a tyranny. The demands and goods of the body must always be respected, and must even, to some degree, shape the life of the spirit. We were made as embodied spirits, or if you prefer, as spiritualized bodies. And we will be saved as spirit-body composites.


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  • Tim Underwood

    Profound. And the core of my year long spiritual conflict.

  • Anton D

    ‘The harmony of spiritual and physical seems to be what God savors and intends:
    the spirit commanding the body, but the body also informing the spirit.
    There is a proper hierarchy between them, but it must never become a tyranny.’

    • Elizabeth

      Well said Anton D. When we place love in the equation is when we receive the balance we are looking for.

  • Mary Hilchey


  • J McCall

    I am speechless :)

  • ber

    The battle between our human and spiritual needs endures until death we are faced with the challenge to master our bodies to let the spirit reign supreme even the animal has the instinct to love and where does love come from only from knowing it’s creator the evil within comes from that darker side price today’s reflection is that bit harder as it is more focused on ourselves even if it does lead us to consider the relationship between our lower and higher instants and God in it we are givin the opportunity to win the battle and the reward is relationship with Christ my dog was sick last night because she ate something that upset her Ballance we too when we take on sin it makes us sick the battle begins to regain the harmony that can only be found when we restrict the food we love for the spirit that makes us well blessings for your day

  • Patricia Robertson

    This integration of the physical and the spiritual is best experienced in the Eucharist where I bring my body into the worship of Christ’s body. If only we could embrace that core of embodied spirituality–God telling Moses to take off his sandals as he was standing on holy ground; Jesus healing a blind man with spit and dirt and his hands or washing the disciples’ feet or inviting Thomas to put his hands into the wounds of crucifixion, the passion and crucifixion themselves. The incarnation assures us that God is not disembodied spirit. Somewhere along the line we decided against this. Years ago I built a sweat lodge; pilgrims walk to Mecca or Canterbury, travel to Israel or Stonehenge to put their feet on actual holy ground. We need this

    • ber

      I love this connection with the Eucharist even there is the battle with our sences with distractions and the desire to connect with the spiritual as St Paul said I have run the race and kept the faith till the end this too is always before me to spur me on thank you for this connection bless you Patricia

    • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

      God is truly there in the Liturgy as He was in the burning bush. If we all fully realized what is truly taking place at Mass, we would remove our shoes… because we ARE on Holy Ground!

    • Elizabeth

      Retreat house is where I can “Come away and be one with the Lord for a weekend to set the tone of my life for the rest of the year.

  • Nancy Rynders

    Awesome reflection, Bishop Barron! This connects to the reflection the other day, where we were asked to be careful what we set our eyes on. I was watching T.V. the other night, and found it hard to find a program that is not morally insulting, either in explicit language, implied ideas, or how characters are dressed. Producers of these shows are appealing to the animal side of their viewers and, unfortunately, are very successful. I pray that my spiritual self will stay in control of my physical, in every single way.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell


      Well said! Thoughtful response to today’s sad reality!

      Bless you,


    • jesspinosa

      Nancy, get rid of your TV set. I did that about 20 years ago. I used to say I was not watching TV that much, but I did not realize how untrue that was until I did not have it anymore. I was actually scheduling my activities around my favorite programs. Once I did not have it anymore, I felt so free. These days, with the kind of shows that you described, that form of entertainment has become more and more occasions for sin, the work of the devil. Having said that, the Internet can also present temptations, but not as much as a TV set. The delete button is very useful. I have composed a prayer for my computer, and it goes like this: Lord Jesus Christ, please bless this computer. Please let everything I use it for be for the good of my soul. Please protect it from the attacks of the devil that nothing I do here and see here will lead me to sin. Please make this computer a holy computer, dedicated to bringing glory and honor to your name. Please do not allow the time I spend using this take me away from the time I should be spending with you. I ask this from You, who are Lord of all and my All, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

      • dorrpaz

        Jess: I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to copy your prayer and stick it to mine! God Bless!

        • jesspinosa

          I don’t mind at all. Please share with others if you wish. You have blessed me this day.

      • Marg

        I love your computer prayer. I’ll print it out and will place it on all computers and iPads at home. Thank you!

    • Mark

      Through prayer, we receive the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc., with the last fruit being self-control, which helps us gain mastery over our animal impulses. God bless. Have a blessed Lent.

  • T Krempski

    Fantastic. .we do combine the best of both. Thank you.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      Or the worst of both. When we let our animal instincts rule we become half animal half demon

  • Elizabeth

    The harmony of spiritual and physical seems to be what God savors and intends: the spirit commanding the body, but the body also informing the spirit. There is a proper hierarchy between them, but it must never become a tyranny. The demands and goods of the body must always be respected, and must even, to some degree, shape the life of the spirit. We were made as embodied spirits, or if you prefer, as spiritualized bodies. And we will be saved as spirit-body composites.

    In my estimation, the saints epitomize the spiritualized bodies Bishop Robert Barron mentions in this Lenten Reflection. The definition of holiness (citing Biblical references) below is the work of God on individuals. And to Christians in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God. Personal holiness is a work of gradual development:

    Dictionaries – Easton’s Bible Dictionary – Holiness

    Holiness [N] [T]

    in the highest sense belongs to God ( Isaiah 6:3 ; Revelation 15:4 ), and to Christians as consecrated to God’s service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God ( Romans 6:19 Romans 6:22 ; Ephesians 1:4 ; Titus 1:8 ; 1 Peter 1:15 ). Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; 2 co7:1 ; Ephesians 4:23 Ephesians 4:24 ). (See SANCTIFICATION .)

    • Dude_Abides

      Yes Elizabeth beautifully stated. I have become more appreciative of the last two sentences about ‘Personal holiness’ as I move through this timeline we refer to as “life”. Boy, could not say it any better.
      You know I’ve been on this planet now for well over half a century; five decades plus. As with everybody here and throughout the world I have experienced several stages of life. From a youthful artisan/poet to athlete, a warrior, then on to a business intellectual. And now drifting into a reflective, non-relevant (as looked at by the society as a whole) stage of my life.
      Sometimes during that part of mass when the priest is offering the liturgy of the Eucharist, when we are kneeling, I am always deep in prayer, head down, with my eyes closed and at times I find myself drifting to thoughts of my ‘whole life’, of my beginning’s, middles and the now. I see everyone I have come in contact with, known and loved all converge in an instance, into a “oneness” a singular state of being – if you will, a state of grace. My “time” here has folded into a instance! And as the father celebrates the mass and the request for prayer (Orate fratres) I slowly open my eyes and look onto the alter and see a heavenly brightness. This is when I fully understand what Bishop Barron refers to in this meditation: “the spirit commanding the body, but the body also informing the spirit”. At this point time has no meaning. There are times when it overwhelms me with joy and love and fellowship.
      Pierre Teilhard de Chardin the French Jesuit priest, philosopher, and a paleontologist (he was present at the discovery of Peking Man) is attributed with saying the following:
      “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

      God bless you all on this 1st Friday of March.

      • Elizabeth

        And God bless you Dude-Abides, Your journey of faith testimony affirms when we are willing to take the roller coaster of life with its ups and downs, and stay faith filled, never wavering (sometimes getting in the way of God’s graces), it is then we are in harmony and able to walk with our God.

      • bergbiker

        Hi Dude, I was mining through comments and came upon your citing of Teilhard. Kudos. As a scientific/religious fella I often contemplate the transition from Thomistic body/soul dualism to the grandiose exposition of Teilhard’s ‘trip’ from initial cosmos creation of Alpha, through material ever becoming life and consciousness, even to the Omega perfection of unity with with the Spirit of God. What a perception of ongoing creation tended by our loving Deity.

        • Dude_Abides

          yes, amen! merci bergbiker

  • +dan

    We are not animals! We are human beings made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)… that was a confusing 3rd paragraph ~ yes, it was brought to an enlightening conclusion… but we ARE NOT ANIMALS.

    ~ with all due respect Bishop,

  • Dayna Ellis

    Biologically speaking, we humans are animals; we have every characteristic of what scientists classify as an animal. With God’s grace, we rise above the animals. Unfortunately what we see in our world are many human animals not seeking faith in God. America is becoming a nation of animals shunning God. Today, is the first Friday of the month. Fr. Rick “Basic Training in Holiness ” has challenged all Catholics to day to go to Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament today and for the remainder of 1st Fridays until our presidential election. Pray for our country to return to God. Prayer and conversion of heart is our only hope.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      Although I cannot go to Mass today, I will offer a special rosary this afternoon for our Country.

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    The ‘Triune’ God dwells within : ‘Glory to The Father ‘ and to ‘His Son” and to Their ‘Holy Spirit’ as it IS , and will be forever . Amen .

  • concerned citizen

    Thank you Bishop Barron. That is why we do mortifications. To be able to control our passions and discipline them to conform them to do what is right.

    Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri: “Hence St. Paul exclaimed, that he wished for no other delight or glory than the Cross of the Redeemer…Again he says, that the crucifixion of the flesh is the test by which the true lovers of Jesus Christ may be known…As the indulgence of the body by sensual pleasures is the sole and constant study of worldlings, so the continual mortification of the flesh, is to the saints, the only object of their care and of their desires… Worldlings go in search of sensual gratifications, but the followers of Christ seek only corporal austerities.

  • dorrpaz

    How beautifully poetic! Thank you!

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    The spiritual/material nature of humankind has always puzzled me. This brought me to ponder the question why the resurrection of the dead? My conclusion was our bodies need to be resurrected to distinguish us from Angels? And if we should go to Hell maybe to distinguish us from demons. But then why are those souls who go to heaven are pure spirits until the resurrection of the dead. It must be sort of a let-down when they are resurrected. I shall probably spend the time from my death until the resurrection of the dead in purgatory. Physically I have always found my body disgusting resulting at times in bouts with anorexia.

    • concerned citizen

      Barbara, a human being is a union of body and soul. A bodiless soul can not be considered to be a human being. Because of this, I do not think we would enjoy eternal bliss in heaven as much as we would, once our glorified body would be united back to our soul after the resurrection of the dead. By the way, how is your health now?

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        Thank you for your concern. My health continues to improves slowly. I hope to be strong enough to attend church Sunday.
        For me the resurrection of the body is a hard concept to get my head around. Jesus resurrection is not hard because it was immediate But our own resurrection is many million years away

        • concerned citizen

          Nice to know your health is improving, Barbara. Yes it is difficult to imagine how all our bodies will be resurrected. But nothing is impossible to God. Take care.

          • Barbara Ann Baugh

            Indeed it is a mystery for which everyone has a theory.

    • ber

      Barbara Jesus was beaten torn apart but as the saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder every person has hidden Dept’s when we look with the eyes of the world we see all our flaws but when you are loved you radiate the true beauty for which we are born

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        ber Jesus’ scars were scars our sin caused they were there to show our redemption.

        • ber

          Thank you Barbara you are so right I pray you will be well soon

  • Bill Ferry

    I see this in what I shoot sometimes, especially this image of a clan house near Ketchikan. People of a previous age show this dichotomy of spirit and skill. (http://www.ferrytrails.com/?p=3459) A good meditation today, Bishop, thank you.

  • Barb McSweeney

    I LOVED the analogy and actually heard St. Thomas Aquinas laugh out loud in delight at “metaphysical mongrel”! I don’t recall who said “all examples limp…”, but yours reflect, TEACH, and are supported by TRUTH – which gives us us a deep, genuine AWARENESS of the reality of GOD in our lives….Thank you…

  • Gary

    Jesus says “The spirit is willing but the body or flesh is weak.” There is a continuous war going on between the Spirit and the flesh. Peter’s denial, the Apostles fallng asleep when Jesus told them to stay awake and be on guard, and Paul’s struggle with the flesh, referring to himself as a wretched man, are all examples of the battle that all Christians will endure as long as we are in this world. We may lose some battles, but because of our Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit we win the war. JESUS SAVES.

  • Copilotcdrl99 .

    “Body, my playmate, neither the master, nor the slave. A buoyant heart shall bear you along, while you cheer my way with your lively flame.” – Dag Hammarskjold. This is very healthy understanding of, attitude toward the nature of our being. On this ‘nature’, our Creator works out his providence for each individual. “Grace builds on nature”, thus says St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • Anton D

    Just thought of posting this, not for the song. His name happens to be Emmanuel.
    Spirit bringing Joy to the Body.

    • Deng

      Imagine there will be Peace and no War. It bring me to tears and PEACE is my prayer for the whole world.

    • ber

      Awesome God is good thanks for sharing Anton

  • http://findmeinflorida.wordpresscom Tampa Lady

    I like how you stated we can enter into the depth of silence in prayer. But we cannot say that we do not make some difference by our work, right? We are not just prayer, but we must do also like prayer and that is our work, right?

  • Mark_OR

    Two comments “Grace perfects nature” and “The glory of God is man and woman fully alive!”

    • ber

      Wow brilliant must remember this one mark well said

  • Linda Dokey


  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around the resurrection of our body. My mind has translated “glorified body” as spiritual body, I do not visualize it as animal body. I see it as a Body that will not need to eat or any of those animal functions that plague our earthly body.

    • Patrick Cassidy

      To get an idea of what our glorified bodies will be like, look to Jesus post-Resurrection. He was not limited by space or time, yet He could sit down and eat fish with the Apostles. He wasn’t a ghost either, as Thomas put.his hands into the wounds of our Lord.

      These wounds were kept as constant reminders, to our Father, of Yeshua’s sacrifice. We can expet similar bodies where there is no more fear or pain, and body and spirit are in perfect harmony.

    • concerned citizen

      Barbara, there are four properties of a glorified body: agility – we can be anywhere at the speed of thought; subtlety – we will not be impeded or restraint – so we can pass through walls and doors; impassability – we will not experience suffering or sickness or injury and clarity – we will shine both spiritually and physically.

  • Patrick Cassidy

    Tbe imbalance between body and spirit is the problem today. We get so caught up in our needs and wants, that we forget about His wants.

    Today is so focused on ourselves, and simply, we need to turn it outward instead if inward. Once we will our love outward, we will begin to grow closer to God.

  • Penelope

    For the last three evenings, my husband and I have been going to our diocesan-wide Lenten Retreat, led by our Bishop Thomas Dowd. Wonderful teachings and reflections on three aspects of Mercy: Mercy in Scripture, Mercy in the World, and Mercy in Reconciliation. This was our time, Jack and I, to come apart to be with the Lord. I was nourished in both body and spirit, through the music, the teachings, and last night, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

    I learned among other things, the importance of offering my first fruits of prayer to the Lord. If I were simply body, I might not need to do this.

    I also learned that Mercy is a Grace that I need to practice, to exercise, like the virtue of Patience. If I and my neighbor were pure spirit like the angels are pure spirit, there might be no need for me to feed or to clothe my neighbor, or to know the Grace of Mercy in being fed or clothed by my neighbor.

    Having passed through many difficulties in my life, I know the reality of receiving both physical help from others, and of receiving spiritual help from others. My faith grew and was informed by both of these – spiritual and corporal exercises in Mercy. Thanks be to God.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    It is true that we are both Human and Spirit. Actually animal’s are smarter in many way than Human’s. They do not get confused about the sexual aspects of live they know that you can only have a male and female mate. Where as the Human’s person’s gets so engrossed in Sin they can not see their way clearly and believe’s that the same sexual partner is okay. When God clearly did not mean that to happen. To see your way clearly in the Human and Spiritual you have to pray to God everyday and walk with Him Spiritual, by giving the Human Will back to Jesus, you can lead a more Spiritual life.

  • rtclovesmac

    Our struggles our our gifts designed to bring us back to God. The joy of love is balanced with the peace of being loved.

  • Jackie

    Many of us who were raised in the 1940’s found it difficult to accept the body, mind and spirit approach. I’m still working on this w holistic view in my life. Because this was split up and of course the spiritual life was #1, I oftentimes neglected the physical and I paid a great price for that neglect. It’s all about balance and harmony but easier said than done.

  • Mary Jane Madeline

    The gospel reading today was of Jesus being asked which was the greatest commandment. His response was …”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all you strength.” ..Loving with the Love of God is what makes Love divine.

  • Karen Thompson

    Truly beautiful words from Bishop Barron and so many of you commenters as well. Thank you all. And I just have to say…. I think “Metaphysical Mongrels” would be kind of an awesome name for a band. 😉 God bless us every one and please pray for our country!

  • Ralph Coelho

    He should have spoken about free will and conscience and the capacity to collect information and judge that differentiates man . Most importantly the responsibility the possession of these faculties places on each individual, on you and me.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I have not yet received today’s reflection in my email and I cannot find it on the website.

    • Dude_Abides

      yes me too Barbara… must be some sludge in the pipe. ;-0
      going through spiritual withdraws because I haven’t received BB’s meditational fix!

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        It just came up. It is said that Satan has become cyber-savvy

  • Sarah George Mathew

    “A metaphysical mongrel” – excellent! Thank you once again, Bishop Barron.

    How much of the depression and sadness of the world is caused by living only in the physical realm of our being, and not realizing our yearning for heaven.