We Have a Physical Faith

Chinese children exerciseAs Christians, we have a physical faith, and that physical faith connects us to the world, to each other and to God. Somebody once asked Mother Theresa if she preached the word of Christ to the poor and sick people she helped in Calcutta. She said, “My job is not to preach Christ; my job is to be Christ.” I once looked up “callisthenic” in the dictionary. It comes from two Greek words meaning strong and beautiful, and I thought, hey, Catholicism is very callisthenic. We arrive at Mass, we cross ourselves, we sit, we stand, we sit again, we kneel, stand, kneel stand. Mass is a workout, physical as it should be, as it has to be, and as we go through these motions, these calisthenics, we can indeed become more strong and beautiful through the love of God. Even the last part of Mass, the send-off, is about something to do — go out into the world and share the Word and help one another. It’s like in the Bible. When people encounter God, they take some action, and it usually involves travel. Abraham, Moses, Mary, the apostles, Paul. It’s all the same — see God, hit the road.

Christianity isn’t a system. It’s a person, the person of Jesus Christ. In other words, the truth of Christ isn’t a set of facts or ideas. It can’t be downloaded. It has to be lived, physically lived, worked out a day at a time. As the poet Yeats said at the end of his life, we might not be able to know the truth but we can embody it.

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