By Amber Kinloch
Have you ever reflected on how precious the physical world is in God’s eyes? Do you evaluate the worth of the physical not from a human point of view (“Is this thing useful? Does it serve an evident purpose? How can I gain by it?”), but from God’s?
The Catholic Faith can seem abstract. Our vocabulary is permeated with terms like “sin,” “soul,” “Trinity,” and “Immaculate Conception.” We can’t touch or see these truths, real though they are. We must study and absorb them through our intellect.
Yet the Catholic Faith is not some mere philosophical theory. It is something real and alive, which we experience and express in our daily lives in tangible ways.
God—A Spirit—Partakes in the Physical
Recall the Creation account in Genesis. After creating each thing, God calls it good. On the sixth day, after creating man, God calls His completed creation “very good” (Genesis 1).
Consider the significance of this. Before, God had created only the angels—pure spirits with understanding and free will. Now He creates in a whole new dimension—the physical—which has never existed. And He calls it “very good”!
Adam’s sin—Original Sin—wounded mankind and all creation, though without utterly corrupting them. God’s creation remains fundamentally good because He created it, is present in its midst, and sustains it.
The wounds left by Original Sin run deep. Not only is man’s inner self afflicted, so is the physical world. Physical suffering is present, and death comes to all.
God nursed us along, as it were, for a while. Over and over again, He extended His mercy to men. And over and over again, they fell. The wound ran too deep. It was not enough to apply a bandage or to stunt the flow of blood with a compress. The wound had to be healed from within.
And so Christ, the God-Man, becomes Incarnate.
This is astounding. God, a pure spirit, assumes a physical nature and enters into His creation through Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and the God-Man. Now God can be seen, heard, touched, smelled. He lives and breathes like us. He labors and sweats. He suffers and dies. And, miraculously, He rises.
It didn’t have to be this way. God could have saved the world in other ways. Why this way?
The answer is a mystery—the mystery of love. God loves us. Not only that, God is Love, pure, unbounded, Love. He does not do things by halves.
Another form of redemption would have sufficed, but not for Love. Love entered into creation. Love personally partook in all of our pain and misery. Love is present physically. Jesus experienced all the ugliness of sin, though without sinning Himself and, in doing so, He, the God-Man, paid the price for our redemption to His Father in Heaven.
Ascended on high, He remains present with us in His Church. This Church is not something invisible or intangible. The Mystical Body of Christ that St. Paul writes of is manifest in a visible Church composed of laity, clergy, and religious all united under the spiritual headship of the Pope (1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Romans 12:4-5).
The Church is a spiritual entity, manifest in the physical.
What of the Eucharist, Christ’s Own Body and Blood? Do you ever tremble when you look at the Eucharist and think of Who is Present? Do you believe Christ is present physically? This is not an optional teaching. It is the Truth.
What All This Means for Us
God delights in the physical world and actively participates in it. Meditating on this truth should impact our daily lives in profound ways.
Do we show appropriate and ever growing reverence for the Eucharist? Do we arrive on time for Sunday Mass? Do we cultivate devotion for the Eucharist in other ways such as by attending daily Mass, going to Adoration, meditating on Eucharistic hymns like “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”, or making spiritual Communions? The Eucharist is Jesus’ own Body and Blood. What joy is ours knowing that He wants to physically abide with us in a union more intimate than that of a mother and her unborn child!
In our prayer, we should take care of our posture. It forms a real part of our worship. Likewise, we might consider how we generally conduct ourselves. How do we carry ourselves? What’s our habitual expression? Do we glorify God in our everyday bearing and appearance?
Do we nurture and cherish our bodies? Do we respect our neighbor’s body? Do we abuse our bodies by committing sins like lust or gluttony? Do we use our senses—especially our eyes and ears—for good? Do we take a proper amount of pleasure in eating, drinking, physical beauty, and leisure? Do these things lead us to God?
What about our tongues? Does the speech that springs forth from them glorify God?
Do we serve others in physical ways, especially by practicing the corporal works of mercy?
Do we treat sacramentals—Crucifixes, Rosaries, blessed palms, and the like—with proper respect? Do we appreciate sacred art? Is it present in our homes? What are our homes like in general? Are they reasonably attractive, modest, clean, and neat? Is there anything ugly or abhorrent present (bad books, movies, etc.) that should be purged?
The physical world we perceive is a beautiful thing. Let’s thank God for our bodies, our senses, and all of creation. May everything lead us to Him as He intended.
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is a beautiful hymn focused on the wonder of Incarnation. It is a perfect piece for meditating on during Advent and Christmas.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.