Even in This Body

"Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body."
I Corinthians 6:19-20

One of my favorite Scriptures was part of Sunday's Second Reading. Saint Paul lays it out so clearly for us. Our bodies are GOOD. They weren't some divine mistake meant to trip us up on the path to holiness. We as body-and-soul human beings are called to glorify God with these very real, very fleshy, very messy bodies. We are called and obligated to use them in a way that brings Him honor and points others to His love and His plan. The truly Christian life cannot be lived without bringing this body into it. We cannot call ourselves truly Christian or even truly human without using our bodies in the way that He designed and in the way that He calls us within our specific vocations. 

In fact, Pope Saint John Paul said this: "The body, in fact, only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual & the divine. It has been created to transform into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it" (Theology of the Body 19:4). Our male and female bodies are meant to proclaim the Gospel.

Ours is a fleshy faith. We kneel, we stand, we raise our hands, we hug, we kiss, we cry, we eat, we move, we make love, we speak, we work, we play, we suffer, we conceive, we birth, we nurse, we serve. Every single one of these natural human bodily acts can be done, and is meant to be done, for His glory.

I struggle with this truth sometimes. Living an incarnate, embodied Faith requires such a mess. It means pain. It means touch. It means vulnerability. It means sacrifice. It means dirt and blood and sweat and tears. It means encountering the lies from the world, from the evil one, and from our own wounds that tell us our bodies are dirty and shameful, a hurdle to holiness. There is a huge part of me that would love to avoid all of that and just be a floaty soul like the angels, thinking, communicating, and worshipping only as a spirit. It sure seems neater sometimes. But God planned that we humans, unlike the angels, would be made in His image and likeness, that we in these bodies could uniquely glorify Him. Even more, He planned that we'd get our bodies back at the end of time. All the more reason to honor them and use them well now! 

It would be remiss to ignore the rest of the passage and the specific context in which Saint Paul is writing. His primary intention was to plead with the Church to avoid sin, to never use the body for immorality and sin against it (and others and Him) with sexual sin. Our God has a design for our sexuality and when we wander outside of that, we are misusing this gift of our bodies and decidedly not glorifying Him. It is in our sexuality, our maleness and femaleness, who we are, where this glorification most rightly takes place. When we use our bodies as He intentionally designed, we are more fully human and more truly free.

There are countless ways that we can be called to this. Some are called to the complete gift of martyrdom. Some are called to offering a body wracked by suffering or disease. Some to witness to the power and grace and beauty present when this gift is used to its furthest potential. For those called to physical motherhood, the call is an offering of our very body to another life.

This means that growing belly often so painfully obvious to the people around us is good and beautiful and glorifies Him. For real. He looks at the stretch marks, the varicose veins, the aching back, the widening hips and He sees BEAUTY. He sees a life pouring itself out now or before for the sake of one of His precious little ones. He sees a reflection of HIMSELF. 

Do you?

How many of us, pregnant or not, can look in the mirror and rejoice in our bodies? How many of us cringe when we see the "flaws?" When we see the ways that motherhood (or just age!) have changed us. The wrinkly belly pouch, the sagging skin, the crow's feet, the battle scars... We can and should take care of our bodies in an ordered way because they are beautiful and good and a gift from Him. We are absolutely required to respect them as the sacred temple they are and respect others' as well. We should do our best to treat them well, to feed them well, to exercise well, to present ourselves well. But when we've used our bodies in accord with their God-given design and our vocation and they show that? Let's try to remember that that is a GOOD thing, a beautiful thing, and a truly holy thing. YOUR body is good and holy and beautiful. Yours. Let's throw aside the mind of the world and cling to His truth that these bodies are a gift meant to be used and they are meant to bring Him glory, saggy belly skin and all. 

1 comment

  1. Beautifully said, thank you for your writing. The readings at Mass this week spoke to me too.


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