Throughout human history, the human body has been adorned with paint, jewels, and tattoos. Keith Haring, a street artist in the U.S., was known for painting the human body as social protest. There is also a religious aesthetic when it comes to dressing the human body. Consider our ecclesiastical wardrobe, religious habits, and liturgical garments that dress the body to communicate status, identity, and religious function. While some of it is practical, some of it is meant to create a barrier between “us” and “them”.
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are reminded of the power of the human body in its encounter with the divine and the things of God. When Moses engages with the people of God, in our first reading from Exodus, the people respond to Moses in unison to what they had heard. They agree that they will abide by everything that God has told them. Later, after the altar sacrifice, which is consumed in the fire as a total giving to God, the peoples’ bodies are sprinkled with blood to seal this covenant. At first glance, this practice may appear grotesque but blood was considered to be a source of life. Through their ritual action, God’s people were affirming their participation in a life-giving and life-changing commitment.
What about us? Today, in our society where the dominant culture decides what is beautiful, and who is valued we witness violence against bodies of color where blood is unnecessarily spilled, and people of color are unjustly “sacrificed” for the benefit of a few. The body of color is seen as disposable and those who benefit from this violence maintain their control, hold their power, retain their privilege. In our current reality, too often the body of color is not adorned or raised up as valuable, rather such bodies are targeted because they are perceived as posing a threat to the status quo that exalts whiteness.
For us to authentically celebrate today’s feast, I propose that we return to a theology of the human body as a temple for the Holy Spirit. A haven where the Spirit of God dwells and reminds us of our worth and anoints us with the scent of divinity claiming us as God’s own.
The Solemnity we celebrate today invites us, as the living Body of Christ, to recognize our place as a prophetic witness in and to a world that has long forgotten or contacted convenient amnesia. But recognition is not enough, we are called to act on the knowledge that we are all in this together.
If we appreciate our shared humanity as a family of God, we will come to acknowledge our blood relationship to each other as sisters and brothers made possible through Christ, whose feast we honor today. In our eating together of the Body and Blood of Christ at the eucharist we should gain an understanding that we are bonded to each other. We share a connection in offering gratitude to God with the conviction that we will do all that God has asked us to do. This means that injustice and personal and social sins like racism and xenophobia will be addressed first within us and then, in our homes, our places of work and our places of worship. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we shall speak out with that conviction, in unison, as we commit to all that God has asked of us.