By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE are reminded of this very important concern of ours in that First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians where he said: “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.” (6,13-17)
Let’s remember that man is always a unity of body and soul. He is not just pure body nor pure spiritual soul. And as our Catechism teaches us, the body, properly animated by the spiritual soul, shares in the dignity of the “image of God.” (cfr. CCC 364)
This is how the Catechism explains it: “The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit. Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity.”
The Catechism further teaches that, “Through his very bodily condition he (man) sums up in himself the elements of the material world…He is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” (CCC 362 ff.)
We need to understand that our body is organically linked to our spiritual and the supernatural character of our life. While distinct, it cannot be separated from our integral human nature and condition, from our beginning and end, and from the plan and purpose God our Father and Creator has for us.
Given that dignity of our human body, we have to make sure that our piety and our devotion to God and everything related to him has to involve both the body and soul. It has to involve our whole person. It just cannot be purely spiritual or purely material. It just cannot be only a matter of knowing the doctrine, quite cerebral in approach, without some external manifestations, or of practicing all sorts of devotional exercises, without knowing the doctrine of faith.
If piety has to be authentic and consistent in all circumstances, then it has to be lived both in our spiritual soul whose main faculties are our intellect and will, and in our material body whose link to our soul, the principle of life, are the emotions and passions, the memory and the imagination, our temperament and psychological state, etc.
When piety is limited to one or the other essential element of our being, to either our spiritual soul or the material body, then it cannot be consistent. It cannot hold out against that anomaly for long. It sooner or later will fall into the tricks of hypocrisy and self-deception.
We need to see to it that our body is properly animated by the spirit of Christ, which is a spirit of love, a spirit of self-giving, willing to make sacrifices even up to death for love of God and of everybody else. This spirit of Christ should be felt in the body. And let’s convince ourselves that it is in this way that our body acquires its best condition.
It’s in this way that our body too will always look for Christ and for others out of pure love. We have to be wary of letting our body be animated by other spirits—like the spirit of the flesh, the spirit of world, or even the evil spirit.