There is a common fault among us – of believing that what we really want is perhaps not what God wants. Holiness seems unattractive sometimes… except when we see it in other people.. then, somehow, it becomes intriguing. It becomes something so much more than our minds could have grasped.. We want it when we see it. We want it, but how much?
I share with you my struggle with this tension, between my temporary desires and my long-term desires: I guess we can characterise the two as ‘bodily or earthly desires’, and ‘the desire of the soul’.
It seems natural to think that these are separate. Over many moments of contemplation, I have encountered something in the heart of God that we as men are not used to hearing (and some of us may perhaps have never heard before…) – the body desires so much more to be in tune with the soul, if only we would give it a chance. If only we were more willing.
St Paul speaks of a tension in himself that I think few of us have considered as being within our own experience: in paraphrase, my spirit wants goodness, but my body somehow does not respond. My intentions are there… but it’s like I can’t execute it. I am powerless (Romans 7:15-20).
St Paul here tells me that he feels a deep weakness in himself – he is unable to comprehend why it is that, sometimes, we feel tense. We have firm resolutions, but the way that we live them out seems almost benign – sometimes we do not live them out at all.
Speaking in more ways than one, the body and the soul are intended to be incognito. We are tempted to say that we are mere strangers living inside mobile bodies, even blaming one side of ourselves for not following through with the other – we create binaries… we begin to believe we are two identities. We develop angst… even hate for ourselves…
A while back, someone confronted me with this idea so new to me at the time: the weaknesses of our human bodies are in no way elements of ourselves that we should hide, or oppress, or degrade because we think they frustrate our true desires for love, for God. In fact, the words which enlightened me on this point were these: “Your greatest weakness is the very thing that will lead you to Him”. The weakness of your body, your humanity, your earthly existence, is the road to your greatest strength, and the glory that awaits you.
I feel this is most – and ultimately – defined by Jesus.
The birth of every person consists not of a soul ‘adopting’ a body (the body being inferior, as though a burden)… but the creation of a body and a soul, together. Since the introduction of original sin, and each of our sins as we grow, the unity of body and soul as intended by God in His initial plan, became distorted… and sometimes, we remain frustrated at what we cannot achieve, or that our soul sometimes feels foreign in our body. Our soul feels like it fights with us sometimes, when we ‘fall into’ deep waters…
I truly believe there is something more significant, and more relatable here… than what I can even express in words.
When Jesus came into being, His soul was no more sitting in His body than your soul in your body. In His death on the Holy Cross, He achieved the unimaginable – He conquered sin by His death. But suppose there was something more astounding that He achieved… something perhaps theologians and the greatest of saints could only contemplate… the possibility is fortifying:
Christ conquered our weaknesses… not by digging them deep into the ground, trodding upon them, ignoring them or abandoning them.
Otherwise they would return.
The weakness does not abandon us. But rather, we come to abandon ourselves. We deceive what should be embraced – we are imperfect.
Christ sheds light upon weakness. He realises it – embraces it, and takes it from the ground, and lifts it up.
Weakness of body is never to be treated as though it is non-existent… as though it is something to be oppressed.
See God’s only Son hanging from a cross – see the shame in His body, but no shame in His heart. No shame in weakness…
The weakness leads you to Him.
The Resurrection solidifies all such understanding of the relationship between the body and the soul. The body was and is intended to come together, in sync, with the soul…
The body will – as God so desires – raise up with the soul on the Last Day…
Jesus’ scars remained on His risen body, and those He revealed to His closest friends – those He let them touch.
Your human weakness, this earthly life we live, is in no way the barrier to your life in the glory of Heaven.
The gift promised to us is not that we are made divine and lose our humanity…
It is that we are perfected in our humanity.
Where you fear to head most, deep in your guilt and your hurt, My love… that is where I await you. That is where Life is led. Come to Me with all that you are.