You formed me a body

Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the second reading for this fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear a fragment taken from chapter 10 in the Letter to the Hebrews. In it, the expression “a body you prepared for me” is attributed to Christ himself.

The Letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the definitive Word of God as eternal high Priest. It begins by pointing out in the introduction that God had spoken in the past through many different means, but now he speaks to us through His Son. Jesus is the firstborn of God, His Son through whom everything was created, whom the angels adore, who assumes human nature.

The Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God in the person of Jesus Christ is one of the central mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith. It is an event whereby God becomes our neighbor, fully assuming our human nature, embracing our vulnerability, our fragility and, of course, our bodily form. The humanity of Christ is not an appearance. His body is like ours in every single respect. So much so, that just like us, He needs to rest, and the Gospels present Him sleeping.

Through the Incarnation, human nature, created in the image and likeness of God, which of itself enjoys an incomparable dignity, is raised to unimaginable levels. Indeed, everything human, has been elevated to an infinite dignity through the union of our nature with divinity that takes place in the person of Christ. Our body has an infinite dignity because God has prepared for Himself a human body, as the second reading for this Sunday points out. Because of grace, our human nature created in the image of God has become irrevocably united to divine nature in the person of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.

We have heard so many times that God became man, that we do not seem to experience any awe and wonder by what is objectively wonderful, a manifestation of the radicality of God’s love for His creatures. God is born of a woman. Christmas celebrates with great intensity the mystery of the Incarnation. It is an invitation to contemplate with awe the child and his mother in the manger.

By his embrace of the vulnerability of human beings, God is a newborn child. God is a fragile baby who radically depends on the care of creatures. Among them, the mother stands out, because she plays a most important role in God’s plan. The Blessed Virgin Mary is properly called Theotokos, Mother of God. God has a mother because he became man. Of course, St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, the guardian of the redeemer will also play an important role in the face of the threats looming over this vulnerable man-God. The ambition and ruthlessness of the powers that be in the world adds uncertainty and danger to the life of the newborn child, anticipating the cross.

The Incarnation transforms all of reality, but it is particularly important for our understanding our own humanity, especially the meaning of our bodies.

Human beings are a unit of body and soul. Therefore, what we do with our bodies affects our souls. The intrinsic dignity of our body demands that it be treated in a special way, that we respect it, that we care for its integrity, even more, that we show it reverential respect.

Of course, reverence has nothing to do with idolatry, which is often proposed to us. In fact, idolatry of the body goes hand in hand with its degradation because it becomes a mere object of consumption, another machine, a toy, an object available to extract pleasure and other sensations according to the whims and fashions of the moment, without any regard for its integrity, leading to seemingly contradictory behaviors, such as the abuse of our body through addictions and other unhealthy behavior whilst engaging in a narcissistic care for its appearance.

In the face of a consumerist culture that degrades our bodily condition and the prevalence of disembodied forms of spirituality, such as those proposed by “new age”, we, Christians affirm the incomparable dignity of our human body which is good because it is God’s work. It has a special dignity because it was created in the image and likeness of God. Additionally, it was assumed by God Himself by the Incarnation. Thus, we ought always to maintain a reverential attitude towards human nature, incarnate, in its bodily form, assumed by God, present in each one of us and in our neighbors. This reverence is due to all, even those in whom human nature is disfigured by sin and especially those that are considered disposable.

Christmas is an invitation to rediscover the value of our humanity, beginning with our bodies. To contemplate them as a gift from God, called to participate in the glory of the Risen Christ. Indeed, when Christ comes in glory and majesty, our mortal bodies will be clothed with immortality and will be glorified in the image of His risen body, victorious over sin and death.

God has prepared a body for Himself, the Body of Christ, a human body like ours which is united irrevocably to the Eternal Word of God by the Incarnation of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity in the immaculate womb of Mary! Merry Christmas!

Fr. Roberto M. Cid