Our Bodies Are Good

by Fr. Justin Huang
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Genesis 2:18 - 24

Hebrews 2:9 - 11

Mark 10:2 - 16

A few weeks ago, some students in our school asked me if Catholics should support the LGBTQ movement—it’s wonderful that they spoke about what was really on their minds.  I tried to answer by exposing the worst parts of transgender ideology: The confusion of and harm towards children, with the advocacy of puberty blockers and surgery for children, who have their bodies irrevocably altered.

However, in today’s Gospel Jesus’ approach to explaining human sexuality does not just touch the head, but touches the heart.  The Pharisees ask Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mk 10:2).  Jesus must have taught something earlier about divorce, and now they’re trying to expose Him.  At this time in history, Jewish law allowed men to divorce their wives, and the surrounding Roman culture also supported divorce.  So, for Jesus to have the courage to say divorce is wrong is like people saying they are against much of what the LGBTQ movement advocates (probably the worst sin in Canada).

Jesus replies: “What did Moses command you? … [He allowed it]  Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you” (Mk 10:3,5).  Hardness of heart means to be stubborn against God, to refuse to trust and obey, especially when His teaching is clear.  Jesus continues, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mk 10:6-9).

Here are four teachings from these dense statements.

1) Jesus goes back to God the Father’s original plan for humanity.  When He says, ‘From the beginning of creation,’ He’s referring to the time before Adam and Eve sinned.  At Jesus’ time in history, there were many differing opinions as to what constituted reasons for divorce, all the way from a man finding a more beautiful woman, to a wife burning her husband’s dinner (Daniel Mueggenborg, Come Follow MeYear B, 283)!  So, how are we to know if divorce is allowed or not?  We need to go back to God’s original plan.

2) ‘God made them male and female.’  Not only is it a biological fact that there are only two sexes, but it’s a theological fact, because male and female are made for a relationship with each other, similar to how the three Persons of the Trinity are in relationship with each other.  In Genesis, the actual passage says, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27).  Being male and female is part of how we represent the relationships within God.

3) ‘The two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.’  What does one flesh mean?  It means sexual union in marriage.  “God did not tell Adam and Eve to have a platonic relationship, to come to a meeting of minds, to be spiritually in sync.  He told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply’” (Dr. Mary Healy, Men and Women Are from Eden, 16).

A few years ago at Starbucks, I met a woman exploring Catholicism, and she asked me why homosexual marriage is wrong.  I offered one idea of Dr. J. Budziszewski which points to an answer.  He notes how every human body has multiple systems: a nervous system, a skeletal system, digestive system, etc.  But the human body doesn’t have a reproductive system; it has half of one.  In terms of reproduction, each human body is radically incomplete.  A man’s body needs a woman’s, and vice versa.  The two shall become one flesh.

4) The body is good!  In Genesis, it was only after God made mankind that He said it was ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31)!  The body is good, and should be respected and cared for.

Some months ago, I read about a woman’s discomfort with her body that bordered on hatred: “It started in childhood, when my unusually tall height and unruly hair made me the target of endless teasing, and eventually, bullying.  In my teens and early twenties I dieted and exercised and obsessed about my appearance so that I could look how women were… supposed to look” (Jennifer Fulwiler, One Beautiful Dream, 36).  She also wrote about the “odd female things” her body did, and how in eighth grade, the health class talked about a woman’s cycle in a shroud of fear.

It’s important that we reflect on her experience, because many people share this.  And, if we reflect deeply, we realize that there’s probably not one of us who doesn’t dislike a part of their body in some way.  I’ve never experienced the pain this woman has, but I realize I can be self-conscious about parts of my body.

Imagine then if, for some people, this dissatisfaction is magnified, to the point that they don’t like their whole body, and therefore don’t like who they are.  What would Jesus say to us?  He’d say, “Let’s go back to the beginning.  I made you the way you are for a reason.  Your body is good, a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Read this, please: “You are not an accident.  Your birth was no mistake or mishap…  Your parents may not have planned you, but God did…  Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God…  It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment.  You are alive because God wanted to create you!… God prescribed every single detail of your body.  He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature.  He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 22).

When I was writing this homily, it occurred to me: Why didn’t God make my body differently?  He could have made me better.  But then I realized: that’s my hardness of heart.  There’s actually nothing wrong with my body.  To want to change it—isn’t that kind of superficial?  Aren’t there more important things than worrying about the appearance of our body?  If I love people who have imperfect bodies (and that’s everyone here at St. Anthony’s), why can’t I love myself with my imperfect body?  Maybe the lesson in this is that, whenever we look at our bodies and see imperfection, God’s wondering if we can love imperfection the way He does.  He loves us all perfectly.

Our culture hears our pain, and says, “You feel uncomfortable with your body, then change it.”  Jesus not only hears our pain, but heals it.

Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t improve ourselves.  We should take care of and perfect our bodies: We should sleep, exercise, eat well, etc.  But there’s a difference between perfecting and changing our bodies.  Perfecting means making it more of what it is: healthier, stronger, more beautiful, etc.  But changing means making it something it is not: a boy trying to become a girl, or vice versa.

Does transgender ideology support God’s plan for us?  Does it support the biological truth that we’re made male and female, that we complement each other, and the theological truth that the body is good, that we should accept and perfect our bodies, but not change them?

Please watch this five-minute video, which gives us our three action items for today (0:02-5:33).

With regard to limiting exposure to social media, today Archbishop Miller is supporting our families in subscribing to covenanteyes.com, which provides internet accountability software.  It’s $16 monthly for ten people and unlimited devices.  I’ve known about Covenant Eyes for years, and I only hear good things about it.  It’s so simple and so powerful, giving parents a tool to guide and love their children.

Are Catholics against the LGBTQ movement?  Not against people, because we love them and they have dignity, but definitely against many aspects of their movement, yes.  We’re against the removal of healthy genitals and breasts, the causing of infertility, unhealthy drugs for children, and the falsehood that we can change our sex.  We all have people in our lives that we love but disagree with their choices and beliefs.  This movement is no different.

More importantly, we’re for celebrating the goodness of the human body, that men and women are complementary, and that part of maturing means accepting skin-deep imperfections.

The woman I mentioned earlier who felt discomfort with her body said that motherhood and faith helped heal some of it.  She started using Natural Family Planning, and wrote, “In order to be good at this system of child spacing, you have to develop an intimate knowledge of how your body works.  I was amazed when I learned about the intricacies of the female reproductive system…  I started to appreciate the differences between men’s and women’s physiology.  I learned what optimal health for a woman really looks like, which led me to a natural revulsion toward the starving-skinny look I once forced myself to adopt.  When I actually started getting to know my body, I finally stopped fearing my body.  And when I stopped secretly loathing all of those perplexing things my body did, I stopped secretly loathing myself…  This practice has given me a sense of inner freedom I never thought I could experience” (36-37).  She came to understand what Jesus planned from the beginning: That our bodies are good.