A Jewish poet remarked that we must “unscroll the Torah of our bodies.” The poet meant, I think, that our living bodies are continuous discoveries and marvels for us; only gradually opening, only revealing little by little, the beauty, the truth and the wisdom donated to us by God through the gift of our personal bodily being.
People say they don’t like their bodies. Too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too wide, too narrow. Paagh! What a blunder! What a mistake! What incomprehension! For this third week in Advent, reflecting upon the ways “the Word became flesh”, we recognize the incredible persistence with which the human body seeks healing and life and meaning. This human body, in its wisdom and perhaps in its homesickness for the divine, hungrily and accurately reaches for the image and healing of the enfleshed Wisdom of God.
Look at Mark 5. A woman with a 12-year chronic illness hears about Jesus. She sees him in her town. She follows him. In the middle of a crowd of people, she inches up to him, closer and closer. As he slows to talk with others, she drops to her knees and humbly, invisibly, out of the depths of her suffering body, reaches out toward his body, toward only the hem of his clothing, as toward healing, toward light, toward life, toward incarnate love. The cure comes. At the same time, Jesus notices communication: he receives a pleading touch; he gives a restorative energy.
It was a cure by incarnation: the incarnation of divine compassion in Jesus, and the incarnation of human yearning, suffering and need in the woman.
In Christian terms, the wisdom or Logos of God, having accepted human life with its limitations and sorrows, will impart the easing and the ending of human suffering. The human body recognizes in the Christ, in his life and in “his wounds”, our hope and our healing. The exilic Isaiah says, and the early Christian community heard, that the Suffering body, the wise Servant, was “pierced for our transgressions…by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV). By his divine Wisdom and compassion, we recognize our own potential to impart ease or to end the suffering of others.