Question 93



“The body was not meant for immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” What does this mean? How is our body meant for the Lord? How does the Lord fit into the picture of the sexual ethic? 

I think it helps to remember that God had a definite purpose for designing us as bodied-persons, which includes our fertility and sexuality. He made the angels to be completely spiritual persons. The angels have no hands, or legs, faces, or fertility. Their modus operandi is very different than ours. 

They live in heaven, and perhaps they travel at will throughout the material universe. 

God created human persons, by contrast, to be confined to the limits of the material universe. We have, and are, mortal bodies of flesh and blood. We have hands to work with, legs to carry us about, and voices to communicate our ideas. Human persons are one of only two genders which compliment each other. We naturally seek a communion of persons. We have sexual organs and sexual desires, which enable us to cooperate with God in the procreation of another immortal human person. And the sex drive is very prominent in any healthy, red-blooded person. 

“’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” Thus we are able to express our sexuality in many different ways, as the world provides ample witness. But not every form of sexual expression is good. We are not to become slaves to our passions. The pursuit of erotic sexual pleasure for its own sake makes us slaves to our passions and dehumanizes us. God has a higher plan for the gift of our sexuality. 

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! … But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” We know something about the physical intimacy that sexual union brings about. In marriage this is a very good thing because, as God designed it, in marriage “two become one flesh” through the spousal act. This spousal communion of persons leads to children and family. 

Jesus is the model for us as sexual persons. He is the world’s greatest lover. He loves us as bodied persons, in a way that enhances our personal dignity. He loves us chastely, as a celibate. All who met him knew that He loved them intensely and intimately. Think of Martha, Mary and Lazarus; the couple at Cana, the disciples, the women of the Gospel, the children, the beloved disciple and the sinners. Jesus loves us in a chaste manner. He wants what is truly good for us; He was willing to lay down his life for us so that we could escape the ravages of sin and enter into the fullness of life. He came to reveal how intense God’s love is for us. 

He wants us to discover a true communion of persons in all our relationships with others. We are to love children the way good parents love them. We are to love beautiful women the way their good fathers and brothers love and protect them. We are to love young men the way Jesus loved his disciples. The model for spousal love is the love Jesus has for his bride, the Church. We love others the way Jesus loves them. We acknowledge the entire rich repertoire of values that can be found in a human person, and we refuse to reduce a person to his or her sexual values. By the virtue of chastity we come into the possession of ourselves and achieve self-control over our unruly sexual appetites. Jesus teaches us that real love is self-sacrificial and agapaic. It completely transcends self-seeking erotic love. 

The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord is meant for the body. Our bodies are an extension of our selves. Jesus wants us, as boded persons, to form a communion of persons with him, with the Father and their Holy Spirit. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit within us, which we have from God. He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Thus we are to choose to subordinate our sexual appetites to loving the full richness of other persons, and to loving the greatest good, the Summum Bonum, who is God. 

Jesus has made all this possible through his great act of love for us: his passion, death and resurrection. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2). 

Cordially yours, 
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB