We have physical bodies in a real, physical world. With these physcial bodies we interact with everything around us. Without bodies we would not be able to express love for another person. We wouldn’t be able to speak kind words, smell their sweet perfume, look deeply into their eyes, listen to their voice, or feel the warmth of their body cuddled close to ours. Because of the physical body, we can express concrete acts of love to another person. These expressions of love intensify as the relationship goes deeper into the inner sanctum of our heart. The person on the outer ring of acquaintance we greet with a friendly smile and a handshake. Familiar friends we will hug with a warm embrace. For the person in our family we hold hands, rub shoulders, cuddle on the couch. And then, for the person with the deepest relationship, the spouse who has been bonded to us through the life-long commitment of marriage, we express love through the ultimate convergence of mind, spirit, and body and bond through the love that produces life itself and bear children.
Throughout history and across religious traditions — both east and west — there has been a perennial conflict between the spiritual and the physical, the immaterial and the material, the sacred and the secular. This conflict has led some to deny the existance of the spiritual altogether and claim that the universe is nothing more than matter. It has led others to go the opposite direction and claim that the physical universe is simply an illusion and everything is pure mental energy. Still others claim that there is a division between the spiritual, which is good, and the physical, which is evil.
This perceived conflict is unfortunate. The mind, spirit, and body are intertwined and inseparable. God created the physcial universe and called it good. God created the physical pleasures of eating, drinking, hard work, art, music, and love. They are a gift to us so that we may engage in the other-oriented love that is the very essence of the divine.
So, how do we love God with our body? God doesn’t have a physical body to embrace, or a hand to hold. Simple. We love others. We take all that we have learned through our mind, combined with the passion that has kindled in our spirit, and we demonstrate God’s love to the physical world. We begin with our own physical resources and realize that my “stuff” is not “mine”, but is a gift from God to be used for the greater good of everyone. I am not the center of the universe (God is) but am a contributing participant in this great family of humanity. Then, once my priorities are straight, I reach out. I greet my neighbor and offer a genuine helping hand. I am aware of the sick, the poor, and helpless and seek ways to fight for equity, assistance, healing, and reconciliation for those who cannot fend for themself. I look at those who are called my enemy and I seek ways to love them and bring peace. I look at the house my human family shares — the earth — and seek ways to preserve it and care for it, as God intended for us to do.