The body reveals who we are
A reflection for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Mary Rose Bacani Valenti
This Sunday is my 12-year wedding anniversary, and I am so pleased that this weekend's readings go back to the roots of marriage. The first reading from the book of Genesis speaks so eloquently and poetically of our history. It goes back to the moment of our conception as human beings. We were conceived in love and made to live in love. What a purpose!
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”
Isn’t it so beautiful what the first part of the passage shows us? God had a personal interaction with the very stuff we were made of. All the rest of creation came to be from God saying, Let it be
. But in the creation of our humanity, God didn’t just say, Let it be
; he wanted to have a relationship with us from the moment of our conception. I can almost see him stooping down to pick up the dust and form it, almost like a potter would form a pot out of clay. And then God breathed his own life into this, what he had made. We were “personally” formed by God and then filled with God’s own life.
“… and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
In this part of the passage, God puts “man” in the garden to till it and keep it. It is clear that this Genesis passage is making a distinction between “man” and “woman” in humanity.
What does this say about “man”? God gave him the responsibility of the management of creation, the role of custodian, let’s say. He has to make sure that all that God created have what they need, that there is order, and that everything works smoothly. He is there to serve the rest of creation; he is its servant, and yet its leader. It’s a big job.
And then God adds the creation of other living creatures, on land and in the air. God also forms them out of the ground, but they are all under the protection of “man”. “Man” names them all; whatever name he gave to each one, that became its name. But he could not find a helper among all these creatures.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’”
Why would God not make the male and female of our species at one time, like he did with the rest of creation? What was he trying to show “man”? “Man” must have realized after looking at all the other creatures, that he is “alone” without “woman”. He needs a helper and a partner — a partner, equal to him in responsibility, able to help him fulfill his mission. Why did God give him this moment of loneliness? Was it for him to realize deeply who he is in relation to “woman”?
“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’”
I find this part of the Genesis passage so moving. God causes “man” to sleep deeply and takes a rib, a bone that protects his heart, out of him. And he makes “woman” out of man’s rib. It is clear that “woman" is made from the same stuff as “man” since God doesn’t pick up new dust to form her with. He makes her from him, from the very depths of him, from his deepest longing. Then God presents her to “man", asking him to name her essence, as he had named the other creatures in the garden.
It’s important to note that “man” looks at “woman” in her nakedness and, in seeing her naked form, realizes who she is.
And “man” goes into a sort of magnificat, a song of praise about “woman”. At last
, he says, this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh
. He realizes with joy that they are meant to be one.
“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
It’s very clear, isn’t it, when you look at the male and female bodies, that they are designed to fit together. Form reveals purpose. The design of a knife tells you that it is made for cutting. If it does not cut, it fails its purpose. Similarly, God’s design of our bodies reveals what we are made for. In general, the male body has more muscle, and the male brain thinks of conquering and achieving. In general, the female body has round hips which speaks to her capacity to carry children, and her gifts revolve around caring for life. She is like a sanctuary that gives and cultivates life, and he her servant and protector. Together, they fulfill the mission God gave them, to take care of all life and to bear fruit. And this call to life can be lived either physically (through marriage) or spiritually (through consecrated/religious life).
In our 12 years of marriage, the spirituality of this one-flesh union has been something my husband and I have been trying to go deeper into. Yes, our bodies are compatible, but are we always feeling like we are compatible? Oh, no! Yet, the sacramentality of our marriage is lived out in this one-flesh union. And we can rely on that sacramentality to help us through our rocky times. When we are one and live as one in our vocation of marriage, we fulfill our mission and live according to our awesome design.
Our bodies are wonderful. They reveal who we are and the love we are destined for.
Illustration of Adam and Eve courtesy of Maria Valenti, age 5
The readings for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Genesis 2:7ab, 15, 18-24
Mary Rose Bacani Valenti is a freelance producer/host for Salt + Light Media. A graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California, she did her undergraduate thesis on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (a theology of how the body reveals who we are). She also holds a Certificate in Theology of the Body - Foundations, from Sacred Heart College in Peterborough, Canada. Here are some links to find out more about this great subject: looking up the TOB course under Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, at sacredheartcollege.ca, tinyurl.com/topTOBbooks, tobinstitute.org. Or watch any Christopher West videos on YouTube.