The temperature has finally hit the summer range – 70s and 80s and 90s. We’ve put away hats and scarves, the clothes we wear all winter long from our heads to our feet. Release! Out come shorts and tanktops, flimsy shoes and, if we’re wise, sunscreen.
On the beach, we see people of all bodily shapes and sizes, young and old. I saw a little boy on the beach recently. He was digging his way into China, as all children do in fine sand. This little guy had a sunblock suit on from neck to knees. His mother had gotten the message about the danger of sun for young bodies. Seeing him brought to mind a piece called, “The Bodies of Grownup” by the British spiritual writer, Janet Morley, which I have in my collection of reflections worth keeping. She writes:
The bodies of grownups Come with stretchmarks and scars
Faces that have been lived in Relaxed breasts and bellies
Backs that give trouble And well-worn feet,
Flesh that is particular Obviously mortal.
They also come with bruises on their heart Wounds they can’t forget
And each of them A company of lovers in their soul
Who will not return And cannot be erased
And yet I think there is a flood of beauty Beyond the smoothness of youth
And my heart aches for that grace of longing That flows through bodies
No longer straining to be innocent But yearning for redemption.
There it is, at the end. The yearning for redemption: a yearning that we hardly think of in our youth or as we are getting started in the world. Rather, this yearning for redemption stokes for a long time in us and means more to us as our bodies age and we have more yesterdays than tomorrows.
Jesus, too, had a body. He was like us and perhaps had scars and bruises from working at carpentry in his early years. He certainly bore the wounds inflicted by others in the days before and during his dying on the cross. Jesus treasured those wounds. He took those wounds with Him into His glorified life and indeed into heaven at His ascension.
If you are young, and have occasion to study older persons, look not just at the lines in their faces, or the stoop of their shoulders, look deep into those persons who bear age as an honor. They have had to struggle with God and themselves and all manner of things great and small. And if you are old, and look upon the young, see in their bodies vigor and desire for life, and pray that they achieve more than they hope for. Holy bodies at any age.
Our bodies are graced by God with life and purpose. Maybe our bodies have stood the test of time well, or maybe they have become somewhat crippled. They are all that we have that stands between heaven and earth. So let’s treasure them.
~ Sister Joan Sobala