Christianity – a religion that takes the body serious

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Thursday, September 4, 2014


ST. JOHN, in the prologue of his Gospel says: “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us and we saw his glory.” A reflection on this passage is written by Dan Madigan S.J., a renowned scholar on the bible and professor at the Georgetown University. He says: “The language of Christianity is body language.” It sounds like a joke but in no way it is a joke. It is a very true statement that has many interesting implications. In the first place, Jesus of Nazareth did not preach his message of salvation only in words, he lived it through actions. He walked all over Israel while preaching his message, he walked for a cause, he walked his cause. At the end of his life here on earth he gave up his body on the cross and died for our salvation.

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 12, 1-2) says: “You must offer your living bodies as a holy sacrifice.” And Matthew Fox adds to this: “There is one Spirit, one breath, one life, one energy in the universe. It belongs to none of us and all of us.”

Mary, the mother of Jesus, carried Jesus in her womb. Together with Joseph her husband she made a long trip to the house of her cousin Elisabeth in a town 5 km West of Jerusalem. After Jesus was born Mary carried him in her arms and brought him all the way to Egypt in order to escape the brutal hands of king Herod.

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Then the massacre of the Innocents took place – numerous children were murdered and sacrificed so that Jesus survived and later was able to preach his message to the people of Israel. Christianity is a religion that affects and concerns the body.

In my previous column I wrote about Teresa of Avila, the mystic in the Order of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. Teresa says there: “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” In other words, followers of Jesus must show through their body that they believe in Christ. If not, they are not real Christians.

In his sermon on the mount Jesus said: “Happy are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep now; happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal.” But in the same time Jesus said: “Alas for you who are rich, who laugh now, you shall go hungry, you shall mourn and weep. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

If you have a close look at the poor, at the disabled who drives around in a wheelchair near the Cathedral of our City, you can see that some have a beautiful smile on their face, some have beautiful eyes. And again, if you look a small child in his eyes, you discover the innocence that is engraved in them. Christianity shows itself in the body.

Pope Francis adheres to the new theology of the body, which says that the body of the man and the woman is sacred, it is a beautiful gift from the Creator, it is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit inspires and radiates in every Christian. Traditionally the body is looked at as a source of temptation. In fact, it is used by many women to charm and seduce other men. That is against Christian ethics. Christianity must show itself in man’s body. Christianity is a religion that affects and concerns the body.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 04, 2014.

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