412 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived
THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY
The many ways in which one can depart from God’s call to chastity and
marital fidelity are more than evident in American culture. The exploi-
tation of sexuality for commercial gain is manifested in countless ads
and other means of engaging our attention through television and allied
media. The cult of the body, not just for health reasons but for hedonistic
attraction, is a prime example of the effect of an exaggerated focus on
sex and sexuality.
What is needed is a healing vision of sexuality, the body, and the
human person. Pope John Paul II offers us this perspective in his theol-
ogy of the body. He begins with the idea that God willed each human
being for his or her own sake. This means that none of us is merely a
part of something else, or a means of gaining some result. God created
us as free and unique human persons. We are not things to be used, but
persons to be respected.
God created human beings to love one another. Since God is a com-
munion of persons, it makes sense that we, being made in his image,
would reach out to love others, forming our own communion of per-
sons. Marital love witnesses the total self-giving of man and woman. The
miracle is that in the act of self-giving, each spouse gains a greater sense
of self while enriching the other spouse.
The Nuptial Meaning of the Body
We experience our selfhood through our bodies. We are embodied as
man and woman. Genesis teaches that it is not good for man to be alone.
We are rescued from our solitude by a complementary existence as man
and woman. Pope John Paul II calls the capacity of the male body and
the female body to serve mutual self-giving the nuptial meaning of
Sin, particularly lust, obscures the nuptial meaning of the body and
its capacity to witness the divine image. In this case, the woman’s body
ceases to reveal her as a person to be loved, but rather as an object to be
used. Conversely, a man’s body would not disclose him as a person to be
loved, but rather as an instrument to be exploited. Sin erodes spousal love.