“To find that which is most sacred in this world, look to that which is most violently profaned.” — Christopher West
Imagine the following scenarios: You’re driving down I-275 and see billboards advertising abortion as a “blessing;” you scroll through your social media feed and see dating apps promoting hook-ups and one-night stands; your teenage daughter comes home from school to tell you that her best friend thinks she was born in the wrong body and now wants to be a boy; you tune in to a popular TV show where one of the characters is having an affair, while another couple on the show is in a same-sex relationship; you go to the movie theater and hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, and vulgar language and sex scenes that have no relevance to the storyline.
These scenarios are not imagined at all but actual situations taking place every moment of the day. Recently, it seems we have been immersed in an incredibly toxic and confused culture that has systematically attempted to remove God and what it truly means to be human from the horizon. We have forgotten who we are and why we are here.
“Without the creator, the creature itself becomes meaningless.” (Lumen Gentium)
As joyful missionary disciples, how is God calling us to respond to the current identity crisis that is happening around us? How do we express the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, especially in such a secularized and anti-Christian world? This is where the theology of the body (TOB) comes in.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. John Paul II gifted us with his catechesis on what it means to be human. As the senior lecturer at the TOB Institute, Bill Donaghy puts it, theology of the body is like the “original blueprint” for our lives. TOB reaffirms the original vision of God for male and female by seeing it in and through Christ because it provides us with a total vision of humanity and our vocation to holiness. Our bodies are given to us by God; thus our body “speaks” the language of the divine.
“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” (TOB 19:4)
Our bodies are capable of imagining God. You know that ache and that desire you have in your heart for something more than what this world can give? That’s a desire for God!
Theology of the Body reveals two key truths. First, that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that we were created by love, for love and to be loved. Secondly, God created us male and female. He did not create us as generic human beings. The gifts of our masculinity and femininity are given to us by God for a purpose. It has been said that the gift of our sexuality is like God’s signature on his masterpiece of creation. This is good news for those who have never known, or believed, that their sexuality is a God-given gift.
If we look at our world like a jigsaw puzzle, there seem to be some missing pieces, leaving a lot of gaping holes. One of those pieces is sexual complementarity. Our current culture is dismissive of our complementarity, trying to erase it from existence, and rejecting the binary of male and female altogether. But without complementarity, we don’t have life. We cannot create life, and we cannot unite as man and woman in the conjugal union.
“Male and female, He made them.” (Genesis 1:27)
One of the many things we learn in TOB is that we are called back to the beginning to look at those blueprints and use them as our roadmap for living our lives as God intended. To live our lives as if we are back in the garden of Eden, before the fall. Before sin entered the world when there was no lust, no domination, no rejection, no blame or mistrust. When Adam and Eve looked at each other with nothing but pure love, and no shame.
While this may be viewed as impossible since we currently live in a fallen world, we can go back to the blueprint and see what God’s plan was from the start. That he sent his only son to enter this world as a man, fully human and fully divine. And that Jesus died for us so that we can now, with God’s grace, strive to live a life of holiness that embraces and receives the gift of our bodies and our sexuality as God intended it.
Thankfully, God’s grace can heal what has been broken. He speaks truth where there has been deception and lies. He has the power to take what’s been twisted and distorted and untwist it and restore us. He makes all things new.