Theology of the Body
Freedom, truth, gift, communion, dignity, love, person, meaning: these are all themes which are continually found throughout the writings of Pope John Paul II. They were there even before he became Pope. As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla he was influential in the writing of several documents from Vatican II, not the least of which was Gaudium et Spes — the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World — from which he never tires of quoting in his many encyclicals and apostolic letters. “Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for tself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ” (Gaudium et Spes 24) We must first know the purpose of our existence and what we were created for if we are to live a fully meaningful life.
Pope John Paul II explores the purpose of our existence in his Theology of the Body, which consists of 129 general Wednesday audiences delivered by him during the first five years of his pontificate. Prior to his election as pope, John Paul II wrote a book, Love and Responsibility. In Love and Responsibility K a rol Wo j t y l a p resents the Catholic Church’s teaching on love and sexuality in a way that makes sense to modern man. Wojtyla stresses the dignity of the person and shows how important it is to live our sexuality in a way which upholds and affirms the other person. Indeed, the true lover will never use another person or treat her as a means to an end. In his Theology of the Body John Paul II digs deep into the meaning of being a human person based on Scripture. As a person with a body and soul, made in the image and ikeness of God, we find the meaning of life through finding out what it means to image God and what our bodies have to do with it.
We not only image God through the gift of free-will, but also through being in communion with others. “To be human means to be called to interpersonal communio . ” Why? Because God himself is a communion of persons in the Trinity. He explains, “Man became the “image and likeness” of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning. ” (TOB, Nov. 4, 1979) “Man Cannot Live Without Love” A “communion of persons” occurs when two people freely give themselves to each other and accept one another in love. In fact, true love consists precisely in this mutual selfgift.
As we see in the Gospels, the main point of the Christian life is to love. John Paul II’s other favorite quote from Gaudium et Spes tells us that, “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. ”What does Christ reveal but that, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. ”? (Jn. 5:13) It is Christ himself who reveals to us our basic vocation as persons by giving himself to us in his death on the Cross. Through his Theology of the Body, John Paul II seeks to present to us the Gospel message of love in a new, deep, and profound way. He knows that love is what all people seek.
He goes so far as to say, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love How important it is to live our sexuality in way which upholds and affirms the other person! Indeed, the true lover will never use another person or treat her as a means to an end.