Bodies some despise are those imprinted with God’s love

| Carolyn Woo | August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments
A woman holds a malnourished child at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 17, 2011. CNS photo/Feisal Omar, Reuters

A woman holds a malnourished child at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 17, 2011. CNS photo/Feisal Omar, Reuters

On August 15, the feast of the Assumption celebrates Mary taken into heaven body and soul. This is by the power exerted by her son’s suffering, triumph and ascent into heaven. Where Jesus is, Mary is, since Mary’s faith and love for him are unsullied by cynicism or bitterness, despite piercing sorrow. She believes the divine promises without pretense or hesitation.

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is what raises Mary above and beyond death. She experiences in her body and spirit the destiny that Jesus experienced, and therefore modeled, in the ascension. It is a passage that is not out of the world but into another dimension that mingles everything earthly with everything eternal. Pope Benedict XVI noted this in his homily on the feast of the Assumption in 2010.

Jesus passes out of sight so that we might not hold onto him as he used to be, but find him in the daily gifts and exaltations and sufferings of our experiences. Through the Incarnation, Jesus became human with a body, which is neither left behind nor destroyed. The same goes for Mary.

Nothing that is precious in God’s eyes will be lost. That includes our bodies. The ascent of Mary’s body into heaven is two things: 1) a dogma cementing her greatness of faith and 2) by means of her glorification, a guarantee that the little and hidden affairs of the body and of all bodies are precious to the Lord.

Catholic agencies and ministries around the world reach out to nourish, heal, shelter and protect the poorest and vulnerable. Daily we see children’s bodies that are stunted, bearing the devastating consequence of malnutrition. We see those ravaged by disease because they lack access to common medicine. We see the disabled, those cast out by their communities because of mental illness or shunned for other reasons. Some are reduced to humiliating subsistence because of war or ethnic cleansing, their bodies scarred by torture.

Yet these bodies are crafted by God, imprinted with his love, sent forth to be his presence on Earth. In the midst of these stark encounters, we witness the will to live, to thrive, to seek a better future, a chance to use their gifts, to make lives matter. In the people who serve with us, we meet compassion and generosity and hospitality and embrace, sacrifice and joy.

In this work and in our daily activities, we call to mind Blessed John Paul II’s teachings on the “Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan.” Our bodies are made to reveal the nature of God and his intended kingdom on Earth.

St. Teresa of Avila said in a poem that we are called to be God’s hands and feet, his body on earth. On that note, she taught us that “God gave us faculties for our use; each of them will receive its proper reward. Then do not let us try to charm them to sleep, but permit them to do their work until divinely called to something higher.”

Woo is the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. She collaborated on this column with her son, Justin Bartkus.

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Category: Opinion