We would suggest you take some extra care about your body these days. Physical fitness is one thing that helps a person the most in sustaining a healthy mind within the body. A healthy body that is host to a healthy mind will give us more flexibility in making decisions that are going to affect our body, mind and of course soul.
It follows that the integrity of our body cannot be a subject of debate. Nor can it be compromised ever. There is no middle path. Either you give due respect to your body or you leave it to its fate.
You might be surprised to see a write up about physical fitness in a platform like V-Catholic which is dedicated to matters on the other side of the spectrum. Our concern has been, and still is, the spiritual well-being of each one of us. Yet we need to think about the body. And the need to do it is all the more compelling nowadays.
To start with, let us see what our Divine Master has taught us about the body and the soul that is caged inside the body. It happened in the garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus faced the most crucial and decisive battle between flesh and spirit. His human instinct tempted him to run away from the impending persecution and the crucifixion that should follow it. The depth of agony and anguish that Jesus experienced in Gethsemane could be gauged from his own words. ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death’ (Mt 26:38). Jesus wished for the cup of suffering to pass from him, if it was possible. Such was the intensity of the attack that the flesh mounted upon the spirit of Jesus in his final hours. He came out victorious from this battle by placing the will of his Father above his own will. ‘Yet not what I want but what you want’ (Mt 26:39).
But his disciples were not so lucky. They quickly surrendered to one of the primal instincts of flesh; to sleep and to have rest. It was late into the night and they badly needed some rest. Unlike Jesus, it was not the last day in their life. They needed rest to refresh their bodies for the next day’s work. In spite of their master’s appeal to stay awake and pray with him for an hour, their flesh decided the other way. Appeasing the body was more compelling than pleasing the Lord. Afterall, sleeping in the night was not a sin and giving rest to the body was something commanded by God!
It was in this background that Jesus made a statement that is more pertinent now than that fateful night in Gethsemane. ‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Mt 26:41). For a soul that is ever willing to fulfill the will of its Creator, the short period of time it is assigned to be within a human body is no doubt a trying time. As we know, the flesh is corruptible, whereas the spirit is incorruptible and eternal. Human history is the history of this corruptible flesh trying to subdue and enslave the immortal spirit.
Our ultimate destiny depends on what we do in our flesh. Sin is the ultimate evil that can lead our souls to the wrong place from where no return is possible. But sin needs a medium – flesh – to corrupt the soul. Eve, and through her Adam sinned against God by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. Their action was never a spiritual one per se, because eating and drinking are not matters connected with the spirit. The food that we eat never enters our heart (inner being), so says our Lord. Then why should we bother about something that we voluntarily receive into our body, be it food or something else?
We need to go a little back in history and rewind the incidents that occurred in another garden, this time in Eden. Adam and Eve were thrown out of this place of perfect bliss, solely for the reason that they ate the forbidden fruit. Their mistake was that they ate not any fruit, but the one that was specifically prohibited for them.
Paul the Apostle warns us; ‘ All things are lawful. But not all things are beneficial’ (1 Cor 10:23). This prompts us to think about another dimension of our body. Our body is the interface between the soul and the outside world. Whatever we receive from this world is through the body and its senses. We feel hot or cold, we feel energetic or exhausted, we feel hungry or satisfied, we feel calm or excited, the cause lies in the inputs that we receive through our body. Discernment is required here to distinguish between what is good for us and what is bad. If we receive something that is harmful to us, we cannot escape from its consequences later.
This is not limited to food alone. We should apply our discernment in respect of everything that we receive into our body. It can be visuals, sounds, medicines, radiation or anything that is capable of tilting the balance of our mind and thereby impacting our capacity to take the right decision at the right time. To use a simple example, one who consumes alcohol will be under its influence for some time and during this period he may often fail to see the line that separates good from evil. If you listen to music with obscene or profane content, your mind will be corrupted to that extent. If you eat certain kinds of food, your body will immediately start to respond in repulsion. Even a single dose of a psychoactive drug can create catastrophic consequences.
If a single dose of substance can harm your body, corrupt your mind, and make you an addict, then imagine how pathetic the ultimate situation of a person who goes for its repeated doses will be.
Those addicted to drugs claim that they get a kind of good feeling when they use it. Eve also should have been enthusiastic about the ‘good results’ that she expected to flow from consuming the fruit that was ‘a delight to her eyes and was to be desired to make her wise’. But contrary to her understanding, it was a sugar coated poison. Unfortunately Adam and Eve could not recognize the snare hidden behind the offer, even though they were living in the presence of the Lord.
Then think of us who in our folly boasts that we are well informed and we are capable of making the best decision for our well being. Nothing is far from the truth. The fact is that many things that we deem to be good or beneficial are in fact simple concoctions of poison and lies mixed in equal parts and originated from the author of all lies. We, the gullible Adams and Eves of this modern era, think that what he serves to us in a platter with so many sweet side dishes is truly the panacea for all our infections and inflictions. He is an expert in marketing and we should never think that he will tell us about its side effects. Wisdom calls for recognizing the motive of those who will leave no stone unturned to ensure that their victims are fed with the right mix of poison so that they are condemned to suffer in flesh for now and forever.
Mind your body. It is your own. Mind what is being received into your body, be it food, drinks or anything else. You should be careful even for a prick on your skin because it can influence your body, mind and soul. Mind your body because at stake is your salvation.
Think not twice, but a thousand times before giving up the control over your body to someone else. If the devil could inject the poison of false promises into the mind of Eve and persuade her to permit her body to be contaminated with something that God never wished, remember that the same devil is more active today. Peter, the first Pope was referring to this enemy when he wrote these lines. ‘Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Pet 5:8).
We need grace and wisdom in abundant measures to resist him. Our minds should be as sharp as a needle these days, because our adversary has devised novel methods to penetrate our body and mind. A small prick is sufficient for him to inject you with the venom that will last forever. We need to be more vigilant than ever. Needless to say, going through the eye of the needle is no easy task. Neither will its tip help you enter the kingdom of God.
Let us pray to the Almighty God to sustain us with His grace and give us prudence and wisdom so that we may come out triumphant at the end of the final persecution reserved for those ‘who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus’ ( Rev 12:17).