I was asked not long ago to share what I thought might be the three most powerful thoughts from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. These three things continually fill me with wonder and awe, and are becoming the tripod on which I stand to view God, life, and everything in between:
1. The Body is Holy.
Many of us grow up being conditioned to think that are bodies are somehow dirty, our desires are always sinful, and sex is a guilty pleasure (even among the married!). We seem to forget that it was God Himself Who gave us our bodies and declared them to be “very good” in the beginning (Gen 2:31). God’s first commandment was not a “Thou Shalt Not” but a life-affirming, joyful, and ecstatic exclamation to “Be fruitful and multiply!” (Gen 2:38)
Our bodies are holy, unique, set apart, different, and wholly one with our souls; they are not pieces of luggage our souls are wrapped in until death do us part. Our bodies are destined to share in the glory that is to come. The body is “a unique composite – a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever” (Pope John Paul II’s message to Health Workers, Phoenix, Arizona, 1987).
It’s the sad consequence of sin that has caused a rift in the body/soul harmony. Everyone today, in a hundred different ways, is trying to figure out how to restore the balance. We must remember that our bodies are temples. I think we sometimes consider them to be more like parish youth centers or modestly carpeted church basements. Our bodies are so much more than this, for something beautifully theological is expressed in and through our bodies!
2. Marriage is an appetizer.
What is this theological truth conveyed in and through our bodies? We are made for communion and must become a gift for others to bring this communion to fruition. This communion occurs in a spiritual way primarily, but marriage here on earth gives it the physical sign for us to see and (for many of us) experience.
Man is meant to become a total gift for woman, woman is meant to receive this gift from man, and life may come from the union of the two. This giving and receiving is the great dance proclaimed by the spousal meaning of our bodies. Our ability to be gift for another points to the final realization of God’s plan for humanity and the universe. God’s plan is not that we sit on clouds and strum harps, fanning God on his throne with palm branches for all eternity; instead, God wants above all to marry us! God is constantly drawing us into the great embrace of His Triune love, a love that has been ceaselessly swirling about in the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! So marriage here below echoes that hope, gives us a glimmer of the love to come, and offers us even now that mysterious equation found in families: 1 + 1 = 1
One gives to another in love and makes another…. 1 + 1 = 1 and 1 = 3, a family. Does three persons in one family sound familiar? It should, since the very mystery of God is stamped right in our bodies as male and female! Our bodies convey so much more than biology, they are a biology that speaks a theology, a word about God!
3. God is a Lover.
Marriage proclaims above all that God is a lover. Are we ready for this? We all long for love, but did we ever think that God was the source of this Love? His love is the beginning and end of love. The saints and mystics witness to this; their prayer became rapture and their hearts were wooed by the Creator. Pope John Paul II said “Prayer can progress as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the Divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit’s touch, resting filially on the Father’s heart. This is the lived experience of Christ’s promise…” (Novo Millennio Ineunte 33)
If these truths do not lead your heart to cry out for God and the deepest meaning of your own life, then I am not sure what can. So let’s trade in any false loves or counterfeits we have bought into and cry out these ancient prayers from the Psalms:
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?” (Ps 42:2-3)
“My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.” (Ps 84:3)
by Bill Donaghy