Most of us have mixed feelings about our bodies but this Sunday we want to recognize that God gave us our bodies for a purpose. No only our souls have value. So do our material bodies.
We saw last week that the material world began as act of creation. It came from the dynamism - the fire, the love - of the Father and Son. The fire is a third person - the Holy Spirit. God the Trinity is pure spirit, yet he loves matter. He invented it.
The Bible tells us God created the cosmos with this end in mind: to form a composite creature - part matter, part spirit. In Genesis we see that God formed man from clay, the dust of earth. Then he breathed into the man. So we have not only material bodies. We have the breath of God, the divine spark in us. Our bodies are good.
Now, we are not 100% good. We are fallen creatures. We misused our freedom; we have become corrupt. Still the image of God remains - even in the most despicable person the image remains.
In response to the fall God did something beyond imagining. He joined himself to his material creation. He became incarnate - taking flesh from a Jewish maiden - Mary of Nazareth. In her womb grew a body like yours and mine. Jesus suffered physically: hunger, thirst, jabbing pain. He suffered emotionally and psychologically in ways only a creature with a physical body can hurt. He also experienced pleasure - a wedding feast with roast lamb, fresh bread and wonderful wine. When death separated his body and soul, he did not discard his human flesh. He rose bodily.
Because Jesus has a physical glorified body he can become present in the bread and wine which the Spirit transforms into his body and blood. I know you believe that - at least the great majority. When we did the Disciple Makers Survey three years ago 82% of St. Mary of the Valley parishioners said they "strongly believed" that the "Eucharist really is the Body and Blood of Jesus." I've been working on that other 18% who either agree or are unsure. I want us all to believe strongly that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Remember that Vatican II calls the Eucharist the "Source and Summit of Christian life."
This brings us back to our original point. It's good to have a body - no matter how you feel about what you see in the mirror. It's good to have a body because then we can receive Jesus' Body - right up to our last day. My mom and I were with my dad on his last day. The doctor told us he was in his final hours. I asked him if he wanted to receive Communion and then gave him the Host which he consumed. His breathing slowed. My mom, my nephew and I knelt at his bed for about 30 minutes. Then he breathed his last. He had received Communion as Viaticum - food for the journey. Even though our bodies decline and finally fail, it's good to have a body because they enable us to receive Jesus physically. And to see him with our eyes, worship him and walk with him as we will do in our Corpus Christi Procession.
Next Sunday we begin Ordinary Time readings. I'll be doing something a little different this summer - taking advantage of one of the preaching options not often used. I think you will enjoy it. That starts next Sunday. Today the message is: Even though our bodies decline and finally fail, it's good to have a body because they enable us to receive Jesus physically.
Our Psalm asks, How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The answer: The cup of salvation I will take up and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Amen.