Friday, December 10, 2021

The Word Made Flesh to Know Flesh - What Jesus' Incarnate Body Means for Our Humanity

 He emptied himself... coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
- Philippians 2:7-8

Humankind has been known to be vulnerable to its own sinfulness.  There are those who would even argue that humans are inherently evil.  But when we step into the Beginning, we see that it was not so.  In Genesis 1, when God created light, land, sea, plants, and animals "God saw that it was good."  (1:12, 18, 25).  It wasn't until after He "created mankind in his image" that God looked at all He had created and "found it very good". 

Our goodness did not change after the fall, even though we would now carry the burden of concupiscence. While that leads to the tendency to sin it also means that we are still capable of not sinning, thus, following the will of God. Aside from that is the reality that would come sometime after the fall: God would come to us as one of us in order to redeem us. Such a selfless act could only be done for those who are ontologically good that are still capable to do good should they choose to follow the life that God made for them. This is also the same God whose mercy is without measure, which is why it is important to note many of the things done to redeem humanity.  The incarnation of Jesus raises the question: if the body is inherently evil, then why would God not only send His only begotten Son to us in the body of a man, but allow Him to be conceived, carried, and born through the body of a woman?

Salvation began in the garden. 

After the couple ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) their eyes were open as they now knew what it meant to wrong. There was shame because there was the realization that disobedience has consequences both in the world along with the way we feel. When this occurred the Lord clothed them with garments of skin (Genesis 3:21) in order to cover their shame and expelled them from the garden, not as a punishment, but to protect them from eating from the tree of life, which would have put them in this sinful state on a permanent basis (Genesis 3:22). In other words, the Lord removed them from this place because there was a risk of the situation getting worse. 

Fast forward several generations and we have the Lord speaking to us about what to do with a body part that causes us to sin (Matthew 5:29-30). We can look at that in a different way where Jesus is asking us to remove a part of ourselves that is sinful, which is not the same as leaving one's home like the first couple. Either way, to remove such a thing from our lives in painful but the Lord also reminds us that He is the one who will provide what we need to get through this struggle:  As stated in Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 

The Son of Man 

There is something to be said about the fact that the Lord came to us as one of us. The prophets did their job and yes, we have always been called to conform to the will of God but there is something to be said about the Incarnation. 

Matthew 13:54-56 shows a community that was aware not only of Jesus' presence but also the fact that He lived a regular life among them. He was a member of a family. He worked, which also meant that He learned skills, dealt with those requested His services, perhaps even hurt Himself while in the carpenter's shop, attended synagogue with his neighbors, endured the struggles that all people face in their lives; all without standing out in a way that led His neighbors to believe that He came down from heaven. 

That alone should speak volumes in terms of how the God of the universe sees humanity. His mercy is without question when we simply reflected on the events that occurred after the first couple of expelled from the garden but now the second person of the Trinity came among us, and not just at the time when His hour had come to begin His earthly ministry.  Think of how we feel when the Holy Father leaves the Vatican and visits our home countries. Some of us have even had the opportunity to see him in person, which is very moving. But if we look at the reality of the Incarnation the Lord is telling us: Yes, you are all worth it! 

The fact that Jesus was tempted by the devil shows that He was capable of making choices. (Matthew 4:1-17). The importance behind that is the fact that like Jesus, who promised to empower us with the Holy Spirit, (John 16:13) demonstrated through His own life as a human being that all of us are capable of living in accordance with God's will. 

Our Empathetic God Who Wants to Know Us

There is a lot of distinction between the "Old Testament God" and the "New Testament God".  Previously, God was seen as wrathful and vengeful.  We see His wrath several times, distinctly the Flood (Gen 6-7) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19), but it is threatened many times over throughout the Old Testament.  However, it is not out of spite, but out of the love of a Father.  God's "wrath" has always been to let us know our own sinfulness, our sin that harms others and ourselves, inflicting pain against the world that He had created for us.  Just like any mother or father would reprimand their child, a good parent who loves their child does not allow their short-comings to go unnoticed.

God had always known the goodness He had created us in, and in His omniscience could always see the deepest longing and desire of the human heart. But in our limited view of the world, we don't always understand or know what God's intention is/was for us.  It was Jesus who showed us the way and the truth and the life... If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:6-7)Not only did He show sympathy and compassion for others in His mission, but could empathize with us.  Jesus wept (John 11:35), felt anxiety (Luke 22:44), was betrayed and denied by those closest to Him, suffered pain and death.  In Jesus' humanity, life and mission, we have come to know the loving compassion of God.  Through the suffering He endured in His Passion, we know how much our Lord can feel our pain and anguish.

Love One Another 

In our youth we've all had a moment when we just needed to know that we were loved. We walk into the front door with a fresh wound and feel the comforting embrace of one of our parents. A teacher hands us back a test with a bad grade and reassures us that they will find a way to help us better understand the material. It wasn't just the kind act as much as it was the fact that these actions showed that we mattered to these people. 

Jesus was at times that parent who covered our wound or the teacher that corrected our mistakes. In doing so He would also tell us a better way to play or a better way to do our school work. This was demonstrated in the story of the the Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11) because while Jesus did not condemn the woman He also did not condone her behavior, thus, the statement of Go, and from now on, do not sin any more. 

Jesus openly stated that what she had done was wrong but not without being truly God by having full knowledge of the situation. First, she was not the only one to commit this sin but was the only one accused. Second, her sin was being used as bait to set Him up. Finally, Jesus would know the underlying void in her life that caused her not to see her true value in God's eyes, which in turn caused her to seek fulfillment in such a sin. One can only wonder the impact Jesus' words had on her, to gaze into His eyes while hearing of her true value from God Incarnate. 

As I Have Loved You

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).  God saw the value in humanity, and showed us how worthy we truly are through Jesus' suffering and death, for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (John 3:16).  What we must remember is that Jesus still had a choice, and He chose to endure pain and give His life so that we can live eternally with our Lord in Heaven, knowing that we are imperfect beings.  Not only did He heal the sick and the blind, raise the dead, and show forgiveness to those who sinned, He showed us that every single one of our lives was worth His own; that unconditional, all-giving love for us.

God knows our tendencies, our imperfections.  Yet He allowed Jesus to walk among us, get to know us as a human, feel what we feel, endure what we endure, and ultimately give His life for us.  Humanity was created good at the core.  And though we have been corrupted, prone to our own concupiscence, He still showed us how much we are worthy, and that we are all capable of goodness through His own humanity.  Let us learn to love ourselves and one another with that unconditional love that our Lord has given us.

Carlos Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate

Angelica Delallana
Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
Fertility Care Practitioner Intern and NaProTechnology Medical Consultant Intern
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate