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The Body as a Sacrifice pleasing to God



(Romans 12:1-2)

Through the body we are present to one another. Our body mediates to the other not just the fact of our presence but also how we are present. Body language gives the other a lot of information about me and about my relationship with the other. A gesture of the hand, a turn of the head, the tone of voice: the smallest bodily sign can communicate volumes.

Right from the book of Genesis, the human body not only defines who I am in myself, but also who I am in relation to others and to God. It is especially clear, though, that the body is intended to be the way I make a gift of myself to the other. In the case of marriage, Adam and Eve “become one flesh” as the final, not the first, expression of the gift of love of their whole selves to one another. God intended the body to be the medium which expresses spousal union born of communion, communion of heart and soul revealed in the union of the flesh.

But we also commune with one another in the body without it necessarily being a spousal union. When friends express their deepest selves to one another, they do so in a way that does not violate the spousal meaning of the body. When a group of people get together to serve the poor or the sick, their love is expressed in and through the body in multiple ways.

Jesus took on our humanity in its full carnal and spiritual form. In and through his body, he poured himself out in truth and love and mercy for all who came or responded to him. His body was the living instrument of his self-sacrifice to mankind and to the Father, culminating on the Cross and leading to the Resurrection and to the Eucharist.

Celibacy for the sake of Jesus, for his Kingdom, is a powerful expression of how a man or woman can imitate the living sacrifice of Jesus for the sake of serving God and others. Marriage is another way in which two people accept a living sacrifice of faithful and exclusive love for one another to honour the Creator and to honour Jesus, the Spouse of the Church, his Bride.

St. Paul invites us today to offer our living bodies as a holy sacrifice, pleasing to God. This means loving God in and through our bodies and directing them to his service, whether we are married or celibate. The body is not a thing. It is a gift, a gift to be given as the Giver intended, not consumed and exploited as I like. To live in the body as the Lord wants will allow the body to flourish in true joy, peace and fulfilment.