I am passionate about many things, but not much exceeds my excitement about spreading the “Theology of the Body.”
Why? Because it’s an actual roadmap, the one we’ve jokingly asked for. The one we wish we were born with. It’s just arriving a few years later for most of us.
I often walk through cemeteries. It’s so peaceful, and therefore a beautiful place to pray. I get sad, though, when I see that people died before September 5, 1979. On that day, in his Wednesday-Audience, Saint Pope John Paul II delivered the first of his 129 lectures, which later came to be known as, the Theology of the Body.
Jason Evert introduced me to Theology of the Body when he spoke passionately to my high school classmates and me about authentic love. A priest then gave me a copy of Christopher West’s “Theology of the Body for Beginners.” That’s when everything changed for me. Life took on a sacramental meaning. And this new worldview – one of seeing the divine everywhere – demanded all I had to give was to be poured out in love. It was Jesus speaking. He asked me to be his disciple. A disciple who would embrace his teachings, spread the Gospel, love his children, and not hold back what Saint Pope John Paul II taught me; what Christ is asking of each one of us.
The Theology of the Body brought my teachers-heart to Uganda. And beyond that, it inspired me to commit my life to share this teaching with all I encounter.
When I share the Theology of the Body with others, I always make sure to include these three truths.
1. It is the heart of the Gospel.
A common misunderstanding is that the Theology of the Body is all about sex. While it indeed explores God’s design for the marital embrace it is much more than that!
How many of us want to know what we are doing on earth? I mean, why did God create you? And what is your purpose?
The Theology of the Body helps us understand what it means to be human in light of being a son or daughter of God. It shows us our identity is revealed through our masculinity and femininity. Our very purpose is, in fact, what we’ve been taught all along, “to know, love, and serve God so that we can live with Him forever in Heaven.” But, it goes deeper. Much deeper.
The Theology of the Body teaches us that God made us for himself, and he gives us the freedom to love him in return. He tells us how to love him in return, and that is to lay down our lives for God and our neighbor in big and small ways. That can mean denying ourselves of sexual pleasure when it hurts another person and/or it hurts ourselves. This is important, especially when teaching about the gift of chastity.
2. It eliminates so much suffering and confusion.
Life is already hard enough. What if I told you there is a teaching that could help eliminate a lot of heartache and pain? And that very teaching is the Theology of the Body?
You see. We all have questions and struggles.
- I am poor, but if I just break into my neighbor’s house and take his spare cash, I can get through for another week.
- I am lonely. So, I’ll masturbate and view pornography to fill the space of a relationship.
- I have same-sex attraction. Why should I be punished and not get to marry another person of the same sex as me?
- It’s not fair I lost my child when he/she was so young. I am going to take my pain out on everyone around me and isolate myself.
John Paul II teaches us that love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. In light of this, take your struggle and/or question and apply what true love is and see if it can free you from your current difficulty and/or guide you on how you are being called to move forward?
3. It draws us closer to God and teaches us how to live our vocation.
As I previously said, the Theology of the Body teaches us what we know from Sacred Scripture: God made us for himself. He also made us for communion with others. He didn’t design us to live this life alone. We see this the most clearly in the male and female bodies. We don’t make sense without one another! This inscription is so significant because it calls us out of ourselves so much that we make a gift of ourselves to the other in the marital union.
But, this reality of the male and female body points us to an overall given-ness approach to life as a whole. Not all love is marital love. We have other ways to live in communion with others, and this is based on our vocations. Are you a priest? You join in communion with your flock at the Holy Mass and offer your very self as a sacrifice for your people. Religious? You take on motherhood in a very unique way and give of your body and soul in service to your community and charism. Single? You can give of yourself in generous ways as God prepares you for your primary vocation. The key is union with God and union with neighbor.
Overall, the Theology of the Body is the best guide we have on how to live the Catholic faith in every choice, action, thought, etc. It brings God from this distant reality to the here and now. He is a God who wants to have a relationship with us. And believe it or not, our very bodies reveal this: he lives in us and we bring him to the world.