This Is My Body
Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body.” – Luke 22:19 (NRSV)
I once gave a retreat talk about heaven to some church folks. I said the Bible doesn’t promise us an eternity floating on clouds. It describes a transformed creation where we’ll live a fully human life together. And a fully human life means an embodied life.
Then I said that in God’s new creation every body will be healed and made whole.
The woman in the wheelchair spoke up. Marian, her name tag said. I hadn’t noticed her. Later she told me it wasn’t the first time she’d been invisible. She said, “I’ve been using this chair for 27 years. It took 20 for me to stop believing I needed fixing. Don’t tell me I’m not whole. I won’t be walking into heaven; I plan to roll.”
Over the years she’d stomached a lot of glib churchy talk about wholeness and healing. The message was clear: her body is substandard, but—good news—she’ll be getting a new improved version in paradise!
It pissed her off. Talk like that dishonored her body and delivered only shame. She reminded us that Jesus’ resurrected body bore the wounds of spear and nails. It still does, and forever will. “Christ’s body is a disabled body,” she said. “You’re saying he’s not whole?”
It sounded like a speech she’d given before. Many times. She shouldn’t have had to shoulder the extra burden of being our teacher that day, too. But she did.
The group asked me to celebrate Communion to close the retreat. When I took bread to bless it, she cut me off before I could say the words, and said them herself: “This is my body.”
These are our bodies, O Christ: bodies like yours, blessed and beloved. Teach me to honor every body. Amen.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.