For many of us during these warm months, our thoughts turn to swimming pools, the beach or just plain working on our tan. In the summer, we tend to be more aware of — and more conscious of — our bodies.
It is true that all of us are aware of our bodies and concerned about how we look and present ourselves to others, and how others look and present themselves to us. This should not surprise us. Our bodies are the “place” where we first meet and encounter each other. It is our body that first reveals something about us to others. It reveals our age and gender. A bright smile or wrinkled frown immediately communicates to others something of what is in our heart at that moment. Our bodies make visible a glimmer of the invisible reality of our heart and spirit.
The Bible’s second story of creation (Genesis 2:4-25), filled with symbolism, proclaims that our bodies reveal to us the deepest meaning of our human lives. The story suggests that when the first man, Adam, was created, he examined his body. He had eyes to see, ears to hear, a mouth to speak, hands to touch and a heart that desired to share his life with someone else. Yet, he found himself alone.
Then God created the first woman—Eve. We can imagine that, at first, she had the same experience. She realized that the very purpose for which she was made— relationships—could not be accomplished alone. When Adam and Eve then met each other, Adam exclaimed: “This one at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” Adam and Eve realized that finally there was someone with whom they could enter into relationship—another person with whom they could share their lives.
Our bodies reveal to us the meaning of life. We were created for relationships. We were made to love. It is only in the experience of relationships that we find the deepest peace and joy that our hearts desire. From the most casual friendships between neighbors and coworkers, to the depths of intimacy shared between spouses, to the ultimate relationship that we share with God —our relationships are the most valuable possessions we can possibly acquire in life.
The meaning of life is love. We don’t have to probe the mysteries of the universe to discover this—we have only to look in the mirror. Our bodies reveal to us the purpose of our existence. Our minds, hearts and bodies were designed by God to draw us into the many forms of relationships that we experience in life. This is what St. John Paul II called the “Theology of the Body.” In a beautifully mysterious way, the human body reveals to us who we are, what God created us to do and what will bring us lasting happiness.
So, as we head to the beach, as we shake hands with our buddies after the ball game, when we hug our child or embrace our spouse, or when we see a warm, friendly smile on a stranger’s face—our bodies remind us that we are made for genuine love.