As Pope Francis noted yesterday, we have to be careful to not water down the teaching of Christ on the Eucharist. Indeed, the Incarnation, the teaching of Christ on the Eucharist (John 6), the teaching of Christ on the Last Judgment (Matt 25:31ff), the Passion, the resurrection of the body (both Christ’s and our own future), and indeed creation itself (Gen 1:31) all instruct us that any ideology (even Christian-seeming ideology) that denigrates, devalues, or abnegates our bodily nature—and therefore the importance of bodily (corporal) works of mercy—is false and to be rejected by the faithful follower of Christ.
In every generation (not least our own) there are such ideologies that proclaim either directly or by consequence this dangerous error. We see it in those that assert that this world (and/or human nature) is fundamentally evil. We see it in those that assert that our true selves are independent of our bodies. We see it when Christians confuse the injury of the Fall with our created nature itself. We see it when Christians say that it is only what we believe that matters, or deny the Real Presence. We see it in those who say they are "spiritual but not religious," for religion is the living out of our spirituality in our bodily life. We see it in those that say we are “trapped in our bodies” and that “true freedom” comes from emancipation from our bodies. We see it in those who reject their bodily nature and try to transform it according to their perception of self (such as contemporary gender ideologies). We see it in those that confuse bodily disease with the body itself, saying that through science we are free to modify our bodies however we see fit. We see it in those that say that we can “transcend” our bodies, or leave them behind (e.g., transferring our “consciousness” to digital media). We see it even in those who suggest that true human personhood (and thus the fundamental human right to life) is separable from human bodily existence, that some arbitrary level of human development must occur (or be maintained) for human rights to be respected (namely, in proponents of abortion and euthanasia).
Truly this is a perennial and pervasive error. We who wish to be true followers of Christ must ever be on guard against it and not be taken in by the very many forms it takes, even when they may seem attractive on some counts. With joy and gratitude, rather, let us embrace the goodness of our bodily existence and where there is suffering in it, join our suffering to Christ’s own. Let us, as the Apostles James and Paul taught (Jas 1:2; Col 1:24), count our sufferings rather as joy and an occasion to rejoice. Let us take up our crosses and follow Christ; let us be followers in deed and not in name only!