Last year I was fortunate enough to take the opportunity to study St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with Katrina Zeno, who came from Arizona to teach us in the Archdiocese of Sydney and Archdiocese of Broken Bay. At the end of the 4 days of immersing into St John Paul’s work, we were asked what was the biggest takeaway from the whole course, and mine was this: that the body is part of God’s Will and not a burden hindering our ability to live out our purpose for love.
Since my reconversion up until then I had been treating my body as if it were a burden. That it was because of my body that I had struggled with addictions to masturbation, pornography and sexual sin. That if I didn’t have the impulses and sexual desires, then I wouldn’t fall into any sin. But this study experience completely turn my perception of the body and its role in God’s plan for Love: each and every one of us has been created out of love for the purpose of love, but we cannot express or fulfil this purpose without our bodies!
God created us with a body and a soul for a reason. By creating us with a soul He gave us our unique personality, our individuality, and by creating us with a body He gave us the means in which we share our personality and individuality to make ourselves gifts to one another. That is, without a soul our body is just a carcass, but without a body we wouldn’t be able to express ourselves.
It is through our words that we say through our mouths that we communicate our ideas and our thoughts. It is through a hug that we show someone we cherish them. It is through our ears that we listen to all that is in another’s heart. Our bodies were created in such a way so that, most especially, we may be able to fulfil the deepest purpose we were created for: love and connection.
In the beginning, God Himself created us with the imprint of His own image and likeness in our beings (Gen 1:26) with both a body and a soul (Gen 2:7). But to understand this reality, we need to know God in His nature of love within the life of the Holy Trinity. That God is the three Persons in One: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Trinity is the union and communion of fruitful and total self-giving love, where the Father pours Himself out in a total gift of himself to the Son, and the Son pours Himself out in total gift of Himself to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the love between the Father and the Son that overflows and extends to humanity.
God, the Holy Trinity Himself, is Love at His very core, and we, humanity, have been created in the image and likeness of Love Himself to embody the same gift of relationship to one another. We are to embody the same union and communion of love in our own lives – as the union and communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – through a free, sincere and fruitful gift of our selves to God, to others, to His creation in nature and to our own selves.
The body is the agent through which we exercise our ability to freely give of ourselves to God, others, nature and our own selves, in the same way that the Persons of the Holy Trinity make themselves a total gift to one another!
But then, why do we struggle with impurity? Wasn’t Jesus the one who said “Blessed are the pure in spirit”, but God is the one who created us with this body with its sexual impulses and such?
Yes, we do struggle with impurity, and yes, God was the one who created us with these bodies, and yes, Jesus did call the pure blessed. But the reason we struggle with impurity is NOT because God created us with a body. What God creates is always ultimately good. It is the way that we, as people with a corrupted and broken human nature, use our very freedom to choose sin over love.
It is a hard truth to face, but we DO choose to sin. Sometimes we may not be knowingly choosing sin, but regardless of our knowledge and understanding, a sin is always a sin when it is an action against the glory of God, the good of others, nature and our selves.
Putting it this way may sound quite severe and may leave us feeling helpless. DO NOT BE AFRAID FOR DEEP IN OUR BROKENNESS THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. That we have the ability to choose sin means that we also have the ability to choose love! God gifted us with a body so that we may be able to have freedom to choose for ourselves what is good, what is true and what is beautiful.
In the same way we have the ability to corrupt our own selves through the choices we make, we also have the ability to restore our own selves by placing freedom at the service of love!
It is never too late to recover our selves in the dignity God created us in. It is never too late to return to God with the desire to reclaim the purpose we have been first created for. It is never too late to renew our selves to live as reflections of the Holy Trinity. It is never too late to restore true love!