Learn About Theology of the Body

theologyofthebodybookRECLAiM offers an opportunity to experience real spiritual growth. Anyone caught in the grip of unhealthy behaviors is living a life contrary to God's plan for humanity. Spiritual growth is the process of getting rid of unhealthy concepts and beliefs about who we are and what the world is all about. The mission of each RECLAiM resource and recovery program is to help you access an understanding of your goodness, beauty and dignity. As you master the brain science of change, you will discover the process of shedding old negative habits, thoughts and beliefs, and letting your true identity as a child of God shine out!

Discovering the divine purpose of sexuality transforms the very nature of sex itself. Sex is sacred and profoundly human because it was created by God. To understand the spiritual connection and divine purpose of sexuality we can turn to the Theology of the Body.

Theology of the Body

The Theology of the Body is a rather intriguing name given to a collection of teachings offered by Pope John Paul II between the years 1979 and 1984. In it's entirety, the teaching is about so much more than human sexuality, but it is the understanding of human sexuality that has made this teaching so popular and its impact so far-reaching. To be clear:  the Theology of the Body is not a "new" teaching; it does not deviate from the Church's traditional teachings on sexuality. Rather, it offers a way to better understand the reasons for the traditional teachings.

 Perhaps the entirety of the Theology of the Body teachings can be summed up in this sentence:  The physical world makes visible the invisible realities of the spirit.

The Church has always taught that adultery, fornication (sex before marriage), contraception, masturbation, prostitution, deviant sexual behaviors and fantasies are sinful, harmful acts. People trusted the Church in times past and accepted the teaching without a lot of explanation. Since the cultural and sexual revolution which gathered great momentum in the 1960's, the Church has generally struggled to impart the teaching of Christ. Trust has been broken and the Church has not always had a readily available language in which she can express the teaching of Christ. Simply stating the content of the sixth commandment – "thou shalt not commit adultery" – may be effective in some situations and circumstances, but often its negative mode does not "strike a cord" with modern men and women. While he was Pope, Blessed John Paul II provided such a language.

The Theology of the Body is based upon Scripture. Blessed John Paul II utilizes some key scriptural texts that relate to marriage and the complementary of man and woman. When Christ was asked about divorce by the Pharisees (Matthew, 19, 3-12), he called them back to the way it was in the 'beginning." The "beginning" is the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis and the Theology of the Body examines these texts closely and discovers something marvelous.

The Human Experiences

In essence, the examination of Genesis reveals three foundational human experiences prior to Original Sin. 

  1. Original Solitude
  2. Original Unity
  3. Original Nakedness

These original experiences are not restricted to Adam and Eve; they are universal human experiences. That is, they are the type of experiences that are the common heritage of every human being if they so desire. Adam and Eve experienced solitude, unity and nakedness, but everyone, precisely because they are human, has access to them. They are primordial.

Furthermore, understanding these experiences reveal to us that the human body is symbolic, spousal and beautiful. The body is an element of the physical world that makes visible the invisible reality of who we are as created in the image and likeness of God.  As an experience that is received and given through the body, sexual activity is also symbolic, spousal and beautiful.  It is an element of the physical world that makes visible the invisible reality of our having been created for union and communion with God.

RECLAiM and Theology of the Body

RECLAiM fits nicely into the vision of Blessed John Paul II. Our experience of sexual sin is precisely an experience of disintegration and separation from God, others and from our very selves.  As the invisible reality of the the disintegration and separation of the spirit is made visible through the physical, our entire being is negatively affected. We need therapy for healing of mind, body, memory, emotions, and spirit. This healing comes in two concurrent steps:

  1. By interrupting our sinful, addictive sexual activity, and
  2. By embracing a new vision and experience of "new life."

The elimination of the "old" way of life and the embracing of the "new" way of life takes courage, therapy and grace. We can only put an end to what is destroying us by turning away from it, by saying, "this sin is not me and will no longer be part of my life." Likewise, we can only begin to embrace what is life giving by turning towards what is actually in accord with our God-given human nature.

Courage

Courage is one of the cardinal virtues; however, as a virtue, it is more than today's common understanding of courage.  The virtue of fortitude (courage) allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles. A virtue is a habit that perfects the powers of the soul and disposes you to do good.  Virtue requires much more than performing good deeds every once in a while.  

Finding and practicing the virtue of courage will not always be easy. As the Catechism explains,

"The removal of the ingrained disposition to sin . . . requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired."

Do not be discouraged if you do not notice immediate results! Growing in virtue is like strengthening our bodies' muscles. When an out-of-shape 40-year-old man first starts jogging, he probably will not find running three miles a day to be easy. In the beginning, it will be quite painful. But over time, the jogger who consistently runs several times a week builds up his muscles and stamina. With much practice, a three-mile run eventually becomes a lot easier.  Similarly, strengthening your moral muscle of courage will take time and effort.

Therapy

RECLAiM can help provide the therapy you need for healing.  Sexual addictions affect us in ways unknown to us. RECLAiM resources and our Online Recovery Program can teach you the nature of these addictions, recognize the impact they are having on your life, and give you tools you can implement immediately so you can walk the journey of healing and freedom.

Grace

Finally, in order to conquer these behaviors, we need the grace of Christ.  Jesus Christ has promised he will not disappoint; He will help you overcome habitual sin and heal the wounds this sin has left in your life and the lives of your loved ones.  For Catholics, the sacraments are one of the easiest ways we can seek out Christ's grace.  Remember Theology of the Body: the physical world makes visible the invisible reality of spirit.  We can see an example of this in the Sacraments.  God provides us with grace through a union of the material and the spiritual, of body and of soul.

Grace itself is invisible, but the grace is made visible to us through the physical world around us.  When He instituted the Sacraments, Christ took the common things from the world about us—objects which we could taste and touch and feel, words that we could hear and gestures that we could understand—and made these the carriers of His grace.  Particulalry beneficial to those struggling with pornography, masturbation, sex addiction, and other unhealthy sexual behaviors are the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist through which we are forgiven for our sin, healed of our wounds, and brought into physical communion with the Body of Christ.

Path to New Life

Through increased practice of the virute of courage, the therapy available through RECLAiM resources and programs, and experiences of Christ's grace in the Sacraments, slowly, but surely, you will begin to experience a new life, a new way of living life beyond sexual addiction.

We all need an alternative to the disintegration and separation caused by sin. We all need to replace our old sinful, addictive experiences with the experience of liberation and freedom God has originally intended for us. This is the experience of Original Solitude, Unity and Nakedness as found in John Paul's Theology of the Body.  As you enter into these experiences through the RECLAiM programs, you will gain courage, discover true and profound healing.

RECLAiM incorporates Theology of the Body as a vision and experience of happiness, integration and unity, precisely because it leads us to understand who we are as human beings and why we have been created. In this we will find freedom and happiness, including sexual freedom and sexual happiness.

We conclude with one of St. Paul's great prayers as found in Ephesians 3, 14 – 21. It reminds us to rely not on our own strength, but on the "power at work within us." In this way, the "inner man" is strengthened and fortified!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

by Father Anthony Percy, S.T.D