The Theology of a Child's Body
God made children sexual beings.
Now, why does such a claim make us feel uncomfortable?
Simply put, we’re viewing that fact through a clouded lens. We live in a fallen world that distorts the true nature of our sexuality. We associate the presence of sexuality or having a sexual nature with being sexually mature or sexually active. But basic prenatal biology tells us that before a female is born, she has every one of her eggs for her future ovulation. That is a sexual characteristic.
We need to recognize that discussing our sexual nature isn’t always about the marital embrace. It is, however, always about God.
The entirety of the Theology of the Body can be summarized in one sentence: The body makes visible the invisible reality of God.
From September 5th, 1979 to November 28th, 1984, Saint John Paul II presented a series of 129 talks during his regular Wednesday audience. He spoke boldly on what Catholicism has to say on the topics of sex, sexuality, marriage, masculinity, femininity, and more. This collection of talks would come to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” (TOB). This text has become the source to which many Catholics turn to when discussing all things related to human sexuality.
Unfortunately, we've now reached a point where many people use the terms “Theology of the Body” and “chastity” interchangeably. But it’s clear from his writing that St. John PauI II never intended Theology of the Body to be primarily about the sexual act. The entirety of the Theology of the Body can be summarized in one sentence: The body makes visible the invisible reality of God.
So what does a child’s body reveal to us about God?
God is humble.
Anyone who has ever held a newborn knows how vulnerable they are. And yet, the second person in the Trinity chose to take on the body of one who was dependent on others. Take a moment and really think about that. Most adults struggle to trust God at one time or another. And this is true despite the fact that we know that we are simple humans and that God is the very essence of Love and Knowledge. Babies are born into that state without any other option. But God chose to take our human form at its most defenseless. None of us have held the Christ-child, but holding any child can give us an insight into God’s humble nature.
God is relational.
We can see evidence of this in several places, such as our understanding of God’s Trinitarian nature. But through the incarnation we can see that Christ chose to be a part of a family. Like nearly every infant in history, the infant Jesus nursed at the breast of His mother. He was dependent on both His mother and father for protection and education. As both human and divine, God exists and chose to exist in relationship.
The day after my son was born, we brought my daughter to the hospital to meet her brother. Upon realizing what she was seeing, her face lit up and she joyfully but quietly said, “baby”. My daughter, at twenty-two months old, was meeting her best friend face-to-face. This baby brother is someone she knew by name. He was someone she had spoken to, hugged, and kissed while he was in his mother’s womb. Then, without any prompting, she walked up to him and gently kissed him on the head. Even at less than two years old, my daughter was demonstrating humanity’s reflection of God’s relational nature.
God is creative.
Even if a person were to spend a lifetime observing the wonders of this world, he or she would barely begin to comprehend the creative nature of God. And yet, before a child can write, they find themselves creating art. A little kid will draw a picture of what appears to be nothing, bring it to you and proudly tell you that they see something there. They’ll stack blocks or create piles of sand and mud. They combine their hands and intellect to make something new. And although God can create an entire universe from nothing, our Heavenly Father also combines what is present in creation to create magnificent things.
God is truth.
From before a child can speak, she is curious. Before a child can walk, he is observing. We aren’t just made in the image and likeness of God; we are also made to be in relationship with God. And with that relationship being a key part of our created nature, it makes sense that we would seek God by seeking truth. And while we’re used to seeing the search for truth in questions asked by freshmen philosophy students or from potential converts, it’s also possible to witness the search for truth in the curious eyes of an infant or the incessant questions from a preschooler.
God created us in His image and likeness, and through the incarnation chose to share our form. And it’s through the Holy Eucharist that we are able to receive the very Body of Jesus Christ. The most fundamental parts of our faith teach us that the body matters. And that through the body God reveals a great deal about our nature and about His. Hopefully this overview which is far from cumulative, will help each of us to begin to see a reflection of the divine in all of God’s children, no matter how old or young they may be.
Tim Lucchesi is the Director of Chaste Love, a ministry inspired by St. John Paul II's teachings on the Theology of the Body. The mission of Chaste Love is to help people discover their dignity and empower them to repair and strengthen their relationships. More importantly, Tim is a Beloved son of God, a husband to an amazing woman, and the father of two. Tim loves cheesecake, superheroes, and tacos. After six years in parish and regional youth ministry, Tim became a stay at home dad. In 2017, he and his beautiful bride felt called to create Chaste Love because everyone deserves healthy relationships.