Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Body and Soul

I like this article because it is so easy to forget that our body is a GIFT from God, along with everything else. When people are suffering from the "disease of incompleteness" because they are lacking a loving relationship with God, our Divine Physician, the body is one of the first places to show it. I know this from first hand experience. I have struggled with my weight my whole life. But the last couple of years since learning about and joining God's beautiful Catholic Church, living her teachings and growing in my relationship with God, those empty and painful spaces have been filled with love and joy (even through suffering) instead of food. My weight has come down and stayed under control. I still find myself wanting to turn to fattening food for comfort in the tough times, but I now have the love of God to turn to through prayer and offering instead. Prayer has zero calories and is more filling and fulfilling than any food could ever be. Thanks be to God!

By Kevin Whelan

While I was sitting at my 10 year old son’s basketball game, a friend mentioned he’d seen some of the items I’d written about Theology of the Body. “Honestly, I really don’t know that much about this Theology of the Body,” he said. “But, the idea doesn’t make any sense to me. The body dies and the soul goes to heaven. So why worry about the body, other than keeping it from sinning? Who wants it? It’s like someone said (the philosopher Henry James) ‘We aren’t humans who have spiritual experiences. We are spirits having a Human experience’ ”

My initial reaction was like one you see in the movies: On the exterior I was calm and pleasant, while inside was a wild raving maniac screaming “You’re Wrong.”. Here it is again. The fact is my generation, that group that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, is “The Uncatechized Generation.” It’s true we had collages and burlap wall hanging with puffy flowers and we did learn that if you love something you should let it go, but we didn’t learn our faith.

Week-after-week we proclaim, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Yet, we fail to have a basic understanding of this essential Catholic belief. Without this, we have no chance of grasping some of the incredible places this can lead us. Even worse, we are defenseless against the way our misunderstanding ravages our culture.

In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. (CCC 997)

God thinks this Body /Spirit combination is so incredibly awesome that he made it unique to us. Of everything God made, only humans have both a body (like animals) and an immortal spirit (like angels.) This is so crucial for us to understand that God put it in the first book of the Bible: Genesis.

Right there, after preparing a place for us, He makes us. Then He has man name all the animals just to make sure we know we are distinct from them. He shows us that unlike these other creatures inhabiting the globe; we have within us the Spirit of God.

Your Body is important! God drives the point home by loading a second creation story into Genesis wherein He makes us by breathing life into clay. Our bodies contain the Breath of God. Breath is the same word as Spirit.

God is not entrapping us is a body as a punishment or as some perverse test. We don’t become angels when we die and heaven without our bodies is not our eternal reward. He made us with bodies and that’s how he intends us to end up: glorified souls in a glorified body.

Catholics radically believe this, that’s why our worship is so physical: up, down, sit, stand, sign of the cross. This is why we are drawn to smells and bells, and gorgeous cathedrals. Even the Eucharist, proclaimed by the Church to be Christ’s body, testifies to the significance that God and the Church give to the body.

Once my friend at the basketball game realizes the huge importance of both his body and soul then he can enjoy a lifetime of contemplation as God shows him the deep meaning of this reality. This revelation changes everything.

The truth that human life is sacred becomes strikingly obvious. Of course it is, God made it. Damage to another’s body is suddenly revealed as a ghastly crime against God’s own creation. Failing to feed the hungry, while I buy another pair of sunglasses, is now sinful. A litany of concerns crops up: What I do to my body, where I take my body, how I use the bodies of others and more.

If the body has everlasting dignity along with the soul, then killing embryos is wrong. Church teaching on euthanasia, the death penalty and even pornography become more than a policy statement. This is God talking to us.

The corruption of our secular society thrives on the mythical separation of soul and body. Just witness our treatment of the ‘mass of tissue’ that the Church calls a baby, the ‘useless old man’, the ‘soulless serial-killer’ and the center-fold. Once we have removed the soul from the creation, it is open season on the body.

Heaven contains two human bodies whose reign extends even over the angels. Through the resurrection of One of them and the intercession of the other, we will be reunified body and soul in the end. This is what God intended from the beginning.

We’re not “Spirits having a human experience,” We’re human beings, made in God’s image, having a human experience (albeit an imperfect one…for now).