DO YOU remember that 1966 American film directed by Richard Fleisher called Fantastic Voyage? In the film a very important scientist is nearly assassinated. In order to repair the damage to his brain and save his life, a submarine with its crew are shrunken to the microscopic level and then injected into his blood stream. After an incredible series of adventures, the crew manages to save the scientist's life and to leave his body safely before reverting to normal size.

I remembered that film while I was in the United States with the relics of St Anthony. At a certain point I fell ill with a nasty form of bronchitis. Thanks to the Saint's intervention and to Ella and Palmo, two close friends of mine, I was visited by a doctor and given the right prescription. And it was just when I was warmly under the blankets that I started recalling that extraordinary film, imagining the antibiotics I had taken were like heroic soldiers engaged in a terrible, mortal combat with the evil bacteria that had invaded my poor lungs. After a few days of extremely heavy fighting, and thanks be to God, the brave antibiotics gained the upper hand, and I was able to continue my mission of taking St Anthony to his dear friends across the States.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we too were able to take a trip inside our own bodies just like in that film? We would then be able to see in operation all the 'cogs and wheels' inside our own bodies, much as when we open the bonnet of a car to examine its engine before buying it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see the immensly intricate molecular mechanisms that keep our bodies in good health? Wouldn't it be exilirating to take a journey inside our heart, brain, muscles and admire the infinite complexity that regulates our body? Do you think that, after such a voyage, we would still be inclined to ruin our health by pursuing the foolhardy lifestyles of stress, smoking, alcohol, drugs and excessive eating?

I'm pretty sure that most of us, after witnessing the awesome beauty and complexity that constitute the divine masterpiece of our physical bodies, would naturally feel inclined to give thanks to God for having gifted us with such wonderful instruments. In writing this, I am not implying that my body can be compared to that of Michelangelo's David. However, whether we be beautiful or ugly, healthy or ill, we are all children of God and our bodies are all, without exception, His fantastic masterpieces.

Our bodies have issued out of our mothers' bodies, and they were created through the encounter of the bodies of our parents and of God. It is through our body, with all its limits, that we establish relationships with each other, that we make contact with one another through our gazes, smiles, words, gestures... Our bodies are also the only instruments through which we can know, understand and live the life that the Lord has given us. Each of our bodies is highly individualized and reveal our unique biographies and the passage of time, which even the most sophisticated plastic surgery cannot hide. Memories can vanish from our minds, but our bodies do not forget: everything leaves its mark upon them.

Jesus, true God and true man, impressed everyone with his words and deeds, and the bodies that he touched were healed, restored to life, saved from isolation and embraced with love... but all this could only take place because the Son of God had a fully human body.

In a famous Gospel passage Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). But where do we start in this? How can we begin to love ourselves so that we may then be able to love others in a balanced way? Obviously we begin with our bodies! By recognising them and accepting them for what they are.  We do this also by learning to look after and educate our emotions, our sexuality and intellectual capacities. And last but not least, we do this by looking after our faith, that is, the relationship between us and God through Jesus because, let's not forget, our body is the Temple of His Spirit.

So, at the beginning of this year, let's promise to the Lord to take care of our bodies because, as Pope Francis recently said, "The body is a wondrous gift from God, intended, in union with the soul, to express in fullness the image and likeness of Him."

May the Lord give you a year of favor full of his unending love. Happy New Year!

Updated on January 01 2019