“A body you have prepared for me.”
Grammy-winning singer, Billie Eilish, recently revealed her painful experience of consuming pornography. What she said started as an innocent “desire to be like one of the guys” when she was only 11 years eventually devolved into an addiction to pornography that she described in these words, “I think it really destroyed my brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn.”
She frequently consumed what many people today call “adult entertainment,” and what she saw through her eyes destroyed her brain, gave her nightmares, and wounded her relationships. One can sense the deep regret, pain, and turmoil in this young artist from consuming pornography.
Her painful but common story about pornography addiction invites us all to reflect on how we value our bodies and how we make use of them. Our bodies are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. However, how do see them and how do we use them in this life?
The letter to the Hebrews shows us how Jesus valued and made use of His body, that immaculate body that He received from the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary. Firstly, Jesus was grateful and appreciative to the Father for His body, “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” The body was given to Him for a reason. Secondly, Jesus expressed His gratitude by using His body to obey God the Father selflessly, “Then I said, ‘As it is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” Lastly, Jesus used His body to give glory to the Father by making Him more known and loved, “By this will, we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”(Heb 10:5-10) We have been consecrated to God as His beloved children because of the loving obedience of Jesus Christ.
The Good News of Christmas is that in the Incarnation, God has forever assumed to Himself a truly human body and soul. In Baptism, the risen Christ has also united Himself with our body to redeem it from bondage to sin and to allow us to share in His own loving obedience in the body to the Father. We too can offer ourselves to the Father in loving obedience because of Christ’s own loving obedience and self-offering of His body on Calvary.
By virtue of this union of our bodies with the body of Christ, our bodies are not our own anymore strictly speaking but now belong to Christ and He has made it the temple of His Holy Spirit. In the words of St. Paul, “The body is for the Lord; and the Lord is for the Body.”(1Cor 6:13) Because He came and united Himself with us for the single purpose of “doing the Father’s will,” we too must and can now use our whole being – head, heart, mind, body – to obey God and give Him glory.
It is crucial that we Christians be convicted about the true value and right use of our bodies in the face of the many distorted and disastrous attitudes to the body in our world today. On one hand, there is the hedonistic attitude that pampers and worships the body, exposing it and indulging in all pleasures, and seeking only what is comfortable, easy, and pleasurable. This is evident in the many depraved forms of sexual immorality of our times.
Then there is the attitude that ignores and even rejects the body, futilely seeking to alter it according to our whims. This is evidenced in the transgender mentality that basically rejects the God-given gift of the male and female bodies. There is also the mentality that thinks that what we do with the body does not matter as long as we have a good intention of love. Such thinking ignores the fact that since the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, bodily actions greatly impact our relationship with God, ourselves, and others.
It is pertinent that we share in Jesus’ own attitude towards His body if we are going to use our bodies for loving obedience. That is why He chose to take up “His own body of flesh.”(Col 1:22) We too should receive our bodies with deep gratitude to God as a precious gift, take good care of it, and reverence the bodies of others too. Through baptism, our body belongs to God now and He has filled it with His Spirit so that He can use it as an instrument for good in our world, “Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.” (Rom 6:13) In the end, this same body will rise again just as the Lord did.
Because it prolongs and makes the Incarnation present in our time, the Holy Eucharist is a powerful means for us to unite ourselves bodily with Jesus Christ. He is truly present here – body, blood, soul, and divinity – offering us a bodily communion with Himself and graceful participation in His own complete self-offering to the Father in loving obedience. It is not enough to receive Holy Communion or to spend time in Eucharistic adoration. We must also allow Him to possess us and the members of our bodies as His own and allow Him to move us in all that we think, say, and do. As long as we chose to live as His living instruments in this world, we can begin to overcome the wayward and self-destructive tendencies of our broken and wounded bodies.
When we use our bodies to obey and to glorify God, we have inner joy in this life and our hope will be strong. We see this in the life of Mama Mary who allowed the Spirit to fill her at the Annunciation and to lead her to visit and help her pregnant relative, Elizabeth, “She set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.” (Lk 1:39) We see her using all of her being on this visit. She used her heart to love and to put her cousin’s needs before her own. She used her feet to go where God inspired her to go. She used her lips to speak the greeting that filled Elizabeth and John the Baptist with the Spirit. She used her hands to serve her cousin for three months. She gave glory to God, helping Elizabeth to know and love the God-made-man whom she bore within her. Can we think of a more hopeful and joyful song than Mary’s Magnificat after Elizabeth’s praises? Such joy and hope come only from using our bodies in loving obedience as God intends.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how long we may have used our bodies as we liked, and no matter the disastrous consequences from doing so, there is hope for all of us because Jesus always desires to unite Himself with our bodies. This is why He became one like us and comes to us this Christmas. This is why He lovingly instituted this Eucharist – to fill our fragile bodies with His powerful Spirit of loving obedience in the body.
Let us unite ourselves with Him and let nothing ever separate us from Him, not even our sins and struggles. Then we must allow Him to possess us too as His own and lead us as His instruments in this world, just as He did to Mama Mary. This is how we will become more grateful for our bodies and more prone to use them only for loving obedience to His glory. This is the way that His joyful hope will be ours in this life.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
image: Statue of John Paul II in Wawel castle with decorated Christmas trees, photo by Alkhutov Dmitry / Shutterstock