Human beings are bodily beings. Their bodies are part of who they are and who they were created by God to be. God does not create human beings as spirits alone, but as unities of both body and spirit. This 'being a body' is important for the Christian vision of the human person because it means that all human beings, regardless of their physical qualities, are created and loved by God. Moreover, this 'being a body' underscores human interrelationships with the world and with time and history. Each human being is unique and irreplaceable. Each human being grows and changes over time. Each human being depends on and acts in and through his or her relationships in the physical world. It is as bodily beings that we come to know God, that we love and learn to discern what is the right thing to do.
The body is good. We affirmed above that the human being is good, not in a moral sense, but in the sense that it is good that any particular human exists. The same is true for the body as part of that human being created in the image of God. In other words, because we are created in the image of God as bodily beings, the human body constitutes part of what gives humans their fundamental and equal dignity or worth. The goodness, worth and dignity of the body, of our human flesh, is further affirmed by Catholic belief in the Incarnation. The idea that God chose to become a human being, to enter into the limitations of a specific human body in a specific time and place, gives a profound meaning to our fleshiness. God has chosen to become like us in every way but sin, and in so doing saved us from the limitations of this fleshiness of ours. Through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are freed from death as the ultimate limitation of our bodily existence. Jesus is raised not as a spirit. Jesus is raised with a glorified body. In other words, our very bodiliness is part of our future as much as it is part of our present.
Respect for the human body is reflected in how we care for ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1991). Thomas Aquinas speaks of how we must have love for our body as a gift from God (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 184.108.40.206). We must befriend our bodies, listen to their wisdom, and realise that they are: . . . our safe and faithful home for our entire lives. We bring them everywhere with us, and they take us to all kinds of inside and outside experiences. We may have names for parts of the body, some facts and information about how they function, where to go for repairs and alterations, but do we truly love and nurture the amazing mystery that our bodies are? Are we aware of the vibrant stories being told inside our bodies and of the dialogue between the inner and outer experience in relation to our whole person? . . . When we begin to believe that the body is in the soul rather than simply that the soul is in the body, and when we come alive to our senses and to our skin, and see them as guides and transmitters of energy and grace, our whole lives can be transformed (O'Leary, 2001 pp. 29-30).