“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Saint Paul reminds us of the dual reality of human personhood. We are not simply our souls—our bodies are an integral part of our nature. Our whole persons have been redeemed, and thus our whole persons are holy, bodies included. Our bodies are made for worship.
Our bodily expressions of the faith are what other people can observe, absorb, and imitate. We teach our children to kneel, to fold their hands, and to recite prayers. These external actions help to form them spiritually, but they begin with the physical. Our physical reverence for the Eucharist is expressed in gestures of humility. We quiet our voices in Jesus’ presence. We lower ourselves physically by genuflections, kneeling, and even prostrating ourselves in deep prayer. When others see these little sacrifices (making things holy), they know what we value. Our reverence points to the Presence of Jesus.
Most importantly, it is with our bodies that we are able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The closest union with God that is available to us in this earthly life comes through our bodily reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus. Even ecstatic prayer cannot reach this intimate union with God, and perhaps most tellingly, the great mystics who have experienced ecstatic prayer usually have done so after receiving the Eucharist. St. John Vianney, for example, was often transfixed at the altar after the Consecration of the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus. He became a living monstrance—his body became an instrument for Jesus to show the world His Presence in the Eucharist.
We, too, can offer our bodies in worship each time we gather as the Body of Christ for Holy Mass. We are called to do so—this is what our bodies are for! May our physical expressions of faith direct the hearts of others to come to a deeper faith in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.