Man and woman are two different ways of “being a body” in the image of God. Man and woman live their full masculine and feminine identity in relation to the “other,” complementary but not interchangeable, equal but not equivalent. We take up the daily task of overcoming selfishness in order to live for others. We hope that that gift will be received, treasured, respected, and honored for life. To have the gift refused at any point during a lifespan rends the very fabric of love and wounds us deeply. Our very bodies make it clear that what was originally meant for us from the beginning was communion. True communion is a sign of a heavenly reality. Let’s look at four things this means.
Many women today hate their weight or some other aspect of their appearance and indulge in fantasies of what could have been if they were more beautiful…. They really just desire someone who will love them as they are. They have a love-hate relationship with their bodies. Fulfillment as a woman doesn’t depend on physical beauty and attractiveness, although often we suffer under the expectations or demands of others in this regard. The secret of the body’s theology is to read the body’s language correctly: your body is good; it is a means of expressing love, not just your love, but God’s love. God created man and woman in such a way that even through their physical bodies they could not miss the fact that they were made for each other, that through their union they would experience and express love.
Some key aspects of the body’s theology:
1) Through the “fitting together” of the male and female body in a spousal union of love, man and woman express the very way God IS and God LOVES. God is a communion of persons in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. In God there is an exchange of love, a complete gift of one person to the other. Through the gift of love that man and woman offer to each other, they mirror on earth the God who is love. The meaning of human existence is written in our human bodies. It is “right under our noses,” so to speak, and we often don’t even see it.
2) Your body is good because it has been made by God, and it has the “mission,” so to speak, to express, along with the male body, God’s way of living and loving. It is a sign of God’s own divine mystery! It reveals God as love and God’s love for us. Your body is sacred because it was made to give and receive love, a love that is imprinted with all that is true, good, and beautiful.
3) Well, that’s a great thought, you might say. But only beauty attracts men. Yes. You are right. And I ask, what is the most appealing, attracting, and arousing beauty that will bring to life a love that will last, a love that will be strong and true, even when physical beauty is hidden under wrinkles? Might it not be the beauty of the woman who has experienced deep in her heart that buying love will not forge a bond that will last, but attracting a love that is captivated by the inner sanctuary of her heart and her feminine mystery will?
4) The body’s language of love shows how important it is to live our sexuality in a way that affirms the dignity of ourselves and the other person, and that reverences the sacredness of the body. The body matters in many ways beyond sex. It isn’t just a machine, an object of gratification, something unrelated to our souls, an object to be used or to give away to another to use. The body speaks our deepest desires and longings. It says in love to another person: “I give you all of myself, body, soul, and spirit in complete self-giving and in trust that your love offered to me is also true and complete.” That’s why sexual love is set by the Church within the sacredness of the sacrament of Matrimony in which a man and a woman promise to honor and respect each other till death separates them, relying on the grace of God to help them. It respects the dignity of each of the partners.
Some key aspects of the theology of the body: 1) We desire love. We desire union. We desire FOREVER. Sometimes we live out our desire for FOREVER in the midst of woundedness, refusal, and without the assurance of having our gift of ourselves reciprocated. What keeps us loving? What keep us giving? It is the heavenly reality that is planted deep in our hearts! We can’t erase the call to eternal union, the marriage of the Lamb, the union with God himself. That is what, ultimately, we really are thirsting for.
2) Marriage on earth points to the nuptials of heaven. In heaven, marriage will be fulfilled. We will live in union with God himself—God and us loving and receiving the gift of love, entering into that divine dance of living and receiving each other as GIFT. The Gospel is really a wedding invitation to the eternal nuptials where we will find every longing for happiness and union completely satisfied and where we will live in the communion of all the saints who have responded to God’s invitation.
3) In heaven, all that is true, good, and beautiful about the love between the sexes will be taken up and transformed, made radiant and glorious in the light of God’s face. It will be a new experience where the love we have lived and daily struggled to develop on earth—either as single, married, or consecrated woman—will be fulfilled beyond our wildest imaginings. 4) Those who live in Christian celibacy skip, so to speak, the sign of marriage, in order to proclaim right now through their lives that the kingdom of the God who loves us is here. The celibate points to the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church in eternity and devotes her energies to this love which brings forth children to the kingdom.