Katrina Zeno is an author and speaker who specializes on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with related topics such as the New Evangelization, marriage and relationships, and pro-life issues to name a few.
The following is a transcript of a talk Katrina gave in 2011 to high school students about the Theology of the Body.
So, I would like to start this morning, by offering a talk entitled, “The Gift Of The Body.”
To do that I need a male volunteer. Any male volunteers? Okay. Great. Wonderful. If you could come up here and help me for a moment, please.
Katrine Zeno: What is your name? If you’ll come over on this side, so that … What’s your name?
Alec: I’m Alec.
K: Alec. Nice to meet you.
A: Nice to meet you too.
K: Alec. I have a knife here.
K: Uh-huh. Aren’t you glad I didn’t pick you, huh? Okay. Alec, what’s the purpose of this knife? What’s it designed for?
K: Right. Exactly. Show me. If I wanted to use this knife according to its purpose, how would I use it?
A: It’s a butter knife, so you’d spread butter with it.
K: Exactly. Very good. Huh? Right, right. I could cut butter, if I wanted to use this knife according to this purpose. Could I use this knife contrary to its purpose?
K: Yeah, but you’re kind of hoping what?
K: Yeah. Blood’s a little messy in the gym, isn’t it? Okay, great. Thank you so much.
A: No problem.
K: Give him a round of applause.
What is the Purpose of the Body?
When we talk about a knife, it’s very obvious what the purpose of a knife is, and what Alec is hoping that the purpose of that knife is not.
But the question that I want to ask this morning is, what’s the purpose of the body?
My guess is that when you bounded out of bed this morning … Okay, you didn’t bound of bed, right? Especially cause yesterday was a holiday. When you dragged your body out of bed this morning, my guess is the first question on your mind was not,
“Why did God give me a body?”
That’s not usually what we ask ourselves. And yet, that’s exactly the question that Pope John Paul II wanted to answer in something called, Theology Of The Body.
What is Theology of the Body?
Who here has heard of Theology Of The Body? Who’s never heard of Theology Of The Body? Fabulous. Okay, that’s why we’re all here this morning.
Theology Of The Body is a collection of 133 Wednesday Audiences, that Pope John Paul II gave in Rome from September 1979 to November 1984. Over the course of five years, with a few interruptions, like one when he got assassinated, he had to stop giving these Wednesday Audiences, but then he resumed.
Over the course of five years, he talked about the meaning and purpose of the body. That’s what Theology Of The Body is,
to help us understand the meaning and purpose of the body.
I want to start with this term, theology of the body, since some of you have heard of it, some of you haven’t. Okay, so who can tell me theology is the study of what? Raise your hand if you can answer that question. Uh-huh?
Audience member: Study of God.
Katrina Zeno: Very good. Theology is the study of God.
Who here, at Saint Michael’s has gone up to heaven and studied God directly? Then we can’t study God directly. We can only study God by how he reveals Himself. When we say theology, what we’re really saying is the study of how God reveals Himself.
So what does this all mean?
Body, body doesn’t mean the rhinoceros body. It doesn’t mean the penguin body. It means the human body. We put all that together as a term.
Theology of the body means, the study of how God reveals himself through the human body.
But I think that’s kind of awkward. Here’s my shorthand definition. The body reveals God. You see, that’s what theology of the body means.
I want to try a little bit of an experiment here. I’m gonna say theology of the body and I want you to say, the body reveals God. You ready?
Audience member: Yeah.
Katrina Zeno: Okay. Here we go. Theology of the body means?
Audience: The body reveals god.
K: Fabulous. When you go home today and tell your parents, who are coming to the PTO meeting tonight, right? Say, “Ah. Katrina came and talked to us today about theology of the body. Do you know what theology of the body means?” They might say, “I’ve heard of it, but I’m not really sure what it means.” And you’re gonna say?
Audience: The body reveals God.
K: Perfect. So, I have some mountains here. If I cover them up, can you still see them?
Audience member: Yes.
K: Exactly. You can see them in the reflection.
You see, we can’t see God directly, but we can see Him in each other. This is why God gave you a body.
He gave you a body so that you can reflect Him because we can’t see Him directly.
So the most important scripture verse for all of Theology of the Body, and really I think it’s for all of our lives, is Genesis 1:27.
So, if your parents want to know what am I going to talk about tonight? The answer is? Genesis 1:27, which says,
“God created man in His image, in the image of God He created Him, male and female He created them.”
That’s the most important truth of your life. Like, we’ve heard it over and over again, but do you really know what it means? Do you really know? This is why you’re trying to build a culture of life here, because you’re made in the image and likeness of God.
So that means it makes a difference how we build a culture. It makes a difference how we are educated. It makes a difference how we treat one another because you and the person sitting next to, who you can elbow and say, “Stay awake,” right? You are made in God’s image and likeness.
The Second Account of Creation
Okay, so Genesis 1:27 tells us we’re made in God’s image and likeness, that’s fabulous. But how is it that we’re made in God’s image and likeness?
Well, in order to understand that we have to go on to Genesis 2, which is the second account of Creation. And in Genesis 2, Adam is created first, and I brought Adam with me today. Dun, dun, duh, duh … Adam is created first and Adam has a problem.
K: Who remembers, what’s Adam’s problem in Genesis 2? Uh-huh?
Audience member: Adam was naked.
K: Um, that wasn’t his problem, no. He had a different problem.
A:He was alone.
K: Exactly! His problem was that he was alone. Why was he alone? It’s because only human persons image God, Genesis 1:27, by being both body and spirit. That’s the way God made us. We’ve two dimensions, your body and your spirit. You see, the animals don’t image God by being both body and spirit cause animals are only what?
K: Body, exactly. Animals are only material. And the angels don’t image God by being both body and spirit cause angels are only what?
K: Spirit, exactly. Can you see that angel up there? You can’t, can you?
You see, in all of Creation, only human persons image God by being both body and spirit.
That’s why Adam experienced himself as alone.
Okay, so I’m sure you guys know the story. God takes Adam, right? He puts him to sleep. From his side he takes a rib. Then when he wakes up, he sees Barbie! Right? Of course not, he sees Eve.
Listen, though, to what he gushes when he sees Eve. Ladies, pay attention. These are beautiful words for us,
“This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman, because out of man this one has been taken.”
We Come from the Same Body
You know, in our culture we have a super popular saying, maybe you’ve heard, maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, you will at some point in time. We’re told that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Is that what scripture just showed us? That God took a little piece of Mars and made it into a man, and a little piece of Venus and made it into a woman? No.
Scripture just showed us something very different. As a matter of fact, something very profound, that men and women come from the same body.
See, this is the meaning of Eve being taken from the side of Adam. Not that we’re from different planets, but that we come from the same body. And because we come from the same body, it means we share the same nature. That’s really, really important.
We share human nature.
See, if men are Mars and women are from Venus, then men would have Martian nature and women would have Venusian nature. And that’s not the case. We come from the same body and we share the same nature.
Marriage is a Union
And as a result, a new possibility exists. One that never existed before. And this is exactly what the next verse in Genesis 2:24 tells us. Would you read that out loud for me, please? All together?
Audience: “This is why a man will leave his father and his mother and unite to his wife and the two will be one flesh.”
K: Exactly. “This is why a man will leave his father and his mother and unite to his wife and the two will be one flesh.” Who can tell me? What is scripture describing for us? Begins with an m, uh-huh?
K: Exactly. That’s a beautiful description of marriage. Who created marriage? God did. From the beginning and that means He has a design for it. You know, part of living in culture of life is understanding God’s plan for the body and God’s plan for marriage. And this tells us God’s plan for marriage. And hidden in this verse is one little word that tells us what makes marriage, marriage. I love my son. I adore my son. Can I ever be married to my son?
K: Why not? I love him. It’s because of union. I can never unite with my son in a way God designed husband and wife to unite.
Listen to that verse again, God’s description of marriage. Not the world’s description of marriage, God’s description of marriage.
“This is why man shall leave his father and mother and unite, cleave, cling to his wife. And the two shall be one flesh.”
This is why a man and a man can never be married. Ever. It’s why a woman and woman can never be married. Ever. This is why I can never marry my son. Why? Because what makes marriage, marriage is union.
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