The cultural shifts that have taken place over the history of humanity regarding our appreciation of our bodies are many and date back to the very beginning – really! Ever since sin altered our view of God, the world, and ourselves, we have been in a quandary as to how to relate to our bodies. Out of the gate of poor choices, our ancestors covered themselves in shame, and we have been struggling ever since to figure out what this flesh and blood is all about. We have been back and forth, even in our own culture over the last 50 years, swaying between the fear of talking openly about our bodies to obsessively talking only about our bodies. Where is the wise person to stand?
This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, and as usual, when we want to learn more about the human condition, we should study the savior of humanity. Jesus could have ended his earthly existence in any of countless ways (the benefit of being the infinite creator). And yet, he chose to ascend into heaven, taking his glorified body with his human and divine natures intact, into the heavenly real. Much the same way that his crucifixion (having had myriad options available to save the world) tells us about our call to selfless love, so too his ascension tells us about our destiny to have a resurrected body in heaven as well. There must then be something worthy in this flesh and blood – something very much worth saving!
With the knowledge that this 52 year old 6’1” male body has an eternal destiny, my choices each day become a bit clearer. The dignity of a human body destined for heaven (isn’t that God’s will for us all?) requires the same attention that other sacred things do. Said in that way, I find myself seeing not only my body differently, but yours as well! I start to see the bodies of the starving, the war-torn, the orphaned and the abused in a completely different light. I start to wish for the day when the resurrection of our bodies will alleviate the suffering that so many human bodies experience each day. I begin to lament the physical harm my choices may have caused, advertently or inadvertently. It’s not just my body, its God’s body. We are, after all, the Body of Christ, and like his body, ours have an eternal destiny so we need to act like it. To not act like it – now that would be the real shame!
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