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Our Bodies Talk

8/2/2002 - 6:00 PM PST

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Body Talk: What Do We Say with our Bodies?

We are ensouled bodies, or embodied souls--Christian faith proclaims the dignity of the whole person


By: Deacon Keith A Fournier (c) Third Millennium, LLC

Olivia Newton John had a long musical career. However, most people remember her for one particular song--the lyrics of which offer an insight into contemporary culture and its view of the body:

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"Let's get Physical"

"I'm saying all the things that I know you'll like, making good conversation-I took you to an intimate restaurant, then to a suggestive movie-There's nothing left to talk about unless it's horizontally

CHORUS: "Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let's get into physical Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk

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In his encyclical letter entitled "The Gospel of Life", John Paul II speaks of a "profound crisis of culture" which permeates the contemporary age. The lyrics to this popular song strike at the root of this crisis.

We have lost our respect for human dignity, a holy and healthy view of human sexuality and the respect and dignity proper to the human body.

Yet this is the culture into which Christians are now sent on mission of evangelization. We must understand the cultural climate in order to effect its transformation. These lyrics and their sentiment are not unique. In fact, they are rather tame by modern standards.

They reveal a view of the body as an object to be used and a real loss of the beauty of faithful married love as the only proper environment for sexual activity as the complete gift of self.

Yet, they do express a profound truth often forgotten. Our bodies do talk. The real question is what are we saying through them?

This song continues to be extremely popular even though it is ten years old. Even this provides an insight into our culture. Serious mission- minded Christians need to understand the insight if we are to learn to articulate the profound truth of the Christian revelation concerning the dignity and wonder of the human body.

John Paul II coined a phrase in his extraordinary teachings on this subject. He speaks of the "language of the body." In other words, our bodies are the vehicle through which we speak the language of love.We are not Manichees!

Manicheeism was only one of several heresies that infiltrated the early Christian Church. Manichees viewed the body, indeed all matter, as evil!

Christians do not believe that matter and the human body are evil.To the contrary, the body is an expression of the "Imago Dei", the image of God. The Christian faith proclaims that our bodies will be raised from the dead! We will live in a new heaven and new earth.

In an insightful document entitled "Toward a pastoral Approach to Culture", the Pontifical Council for Culture (A Vatican Missions Council) speaks to the challenges faced in efforts geared toward the evangelization of cultures:

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"From the time the Gospel was first preached, the Church has known the process of encounter and engagement with cultures, (Fides et ratio n.70), for it is one of the properties of the human person, that he can achieve true and full humanity, only by means of culture (Gaudium et Spes, n. 53).

In this way, the Good News, which is Christ's Gospel for all men and the whole human person, both child and parent of the culture in which they are immersed, (Fides et ratio, n.71), reaches them in their own culture, which absorbs their manner of living the faith and is in turn gradually shaped by it.

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Today as the Gospel gradually comes into contact with cultural worlds, which once lay beyond Christian influence, there are new tasks of inculturation (Ibid. 72). At the same time, some traditionally Christian cultures, or cultures imbued with thousand-year-old religious traditions are being shattered.

Thus, it is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures, but of revitalizing a de-Christianized world whose only Christian references are of a cultural nature. On the threshold of the third Millennium, the Church throughout the world is faced with new cultural situations, new fields of evangelization"

This lengthy excerpt from this theologically dense document sets the framework for the task that we face in our missionary work in a de-Christianized America.

It has been my experience that those involved in the task of evangelization often fail to see the depth of the loss of even an echo of Christian influence in ...

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