This is my body!

Nina Rosenstand, in her book The Human Condition, contends that, among other characterizations, the human person can also be characterized as the story-telling animal.  Rosenstand elucidates her argument by citing historical evidence as well as a natural anthropological need in the human person to communicate by speech, written words, signs, drawings, and etc. but always in the form of stories.  God, the author of the world’s best seller, knows this all too well.  He is not known as the Word just because it sounds fancy and mysterious, but it is because the Word gives intelligibility to creation and gives meaning to their stories.

So our story begins in a beautiful garden created out of love just for us—it reminds me of the pack-and-play set up that I neatly set up out of love for my daughter.  Alas, temptation enters: “Take and eat!” the serpent said to the woman, “for you surely will not die.”  The woman and the man thus ate the fruit from the forbidden tree and their eyes were opened.  They looked at their bodies and thought “my body is naked and it is shameful so I must hide it!”  It is from this act of disobedience that the realization of shamefulness of the body came about.  Yet, even though our first parents were disobedient and cost us the price of the beatific vision, they were right about one thing: they recognized their sinfulness and were ashamed of it.  They recognized right from wrong and felt ashamed of their wrong-doing.  They recognized that their pride and foolishness had cost them God’s friendship and love.  They knew they had marred their relationship with God, but they did not know how to restore it; and indeed they could not have done it on their own, they needed the help of the Word.

And so we received help. The melancholic consequence of ‘the fall’ which reduced life to bleak nihilism would soon be eradicated by Mercy and Love.  The Logos became incarnate in the person of Christ Jesus and was hung on the cross for the sake of redemption.  With this kind of love, we would like to think that we learned from our parents’ mistake and turned ourselves from sinfulness and run to God, but it seems that this is not the case.  If anything, we have turned further and further from God with the very same pride and foolishness we inherited from our first parents.  Let me illustrate this with an example:

It seems that abortion is conceived by some as a prudent and wonderful decision.  The justification being this:  Why would I bring a child into life if she will have a terrible life?  Why would I want to bring a child into life if she will remind me of the time I was raped?  Why would I want to bring a child into life if there is a chance she will be mentally or physically handicapped? This way of thinking can be summed up in one phrase, “This is my body!” But again, when our first parents uttered “this is my body,” they also recognized that it was shameful because it has now known sin.

Yet for us, the recognition of “this is my body” does not take on an understanding of shamefulness because it knows sin; instead, it replaces shame with what it considers just pride and therefore usurps the Good Master’s rightful authority over our bodies.  We think ourselves beyond sin, justifying our sinful actions with qualities like reasonable, good, and desirable even though they are contrary to reason, immoral, and disordered.

So “Take and eat!” the serpent says to you and to me, “for surely you will not die!”  The serpent then tells us “The fruit that you are eating will allow you to feel good, do what makes you happy, and you will do all of this in the name of love,”  And so do we blame to serpent for blockading our road to God?  I suspect we can, but we have to also remember that we are very much responsible for the actual blockade itself since we seem to deny our own faults and failures.

We gladly eat from the tree, but we are also very glad to point to the serpent and accuse him for giving the fruits to us—like our first parents.  We need to, instead, acknowledge that we’ve eaten from the tree and point a finger at ourselves and admit: mea maxima culpa!  It is only when we can say this that we can come to the table where Christ tells us, ‘take and eat, for this is my body and blood that will be shed for your sins so you may have life.’  Sure the fruit from the tree may seem to taste better, but it neither nourishes the body nor the soul the way Christ’s body and blood does.  The fruit of the tree will demand nothing of us; if anything, it tells us to say ‘this is my body, and I can and will do anything with it I wish—even to destroying it.’  The flesh of Christ will demand many things of us, even our very own lives.  It forces us to recognize that ‘this is my body, and it will be given up for you!’  Yes, the flesh of Christ is harder to consume, but as Jesus reminds us, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  May we be the Easter people who receives from the Table of Plenty and not the Tree of Knowledge.

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