The Church and the body
by Charlotte Benstead (revised, originally published in 2007)
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To compare the human body with the Church.
Preparation and materials
- Optional: you may wish to ask some students to read out the facts about the body in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2, in which case they may need some time to rehearse prior to the assembly.
- Begin the assembly by telling the students that they are amazing, really amazing . . .
- Read out (or ask your readers to read out) the following facts.
- Scientists have estimated that the body contains 30 trillion cells. That’s 30 million million cells!
- An adult male body is about 60 per cent water.
- Our lungs breathe in 8,000 to 9,000 litres of air every day.
- The heart pumps five litres of blood through the body at any one time.
- An average heart beats over 100,000 times a day.
- There are about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult body. That’s the equivalent of going four times around the world!
- We consume 30 tons of food throughout our life.
- The body’s bacteria could fill a soup can.
- The average head has 100,000 hairs, each living for about two to four years.
- Under normal conditions, during strenuous exercise, we can excrete two pints of sweat per hour.
- We excrete an average of 17 gallons of tears throughout our lifetime.
- Comment that the human body is a marvellous work of God’s creation. Every time we raise a finger or take a step, a huge number of cells and nerves interact to produce such seemingly simple movements.
- In the New Testament part of the Bible (1 Corinthians 12.12-27), St Paul likens the Church to the human body.
‘The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body.” Would the ear still belong to the body? If our bodies were only an eye, we wouldn’t hear anything. And if they were only an ear, we wouldn’t smell anything. But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best.
‘A body isn’t really a body unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say that they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say that it doesn’t need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest. God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the other. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honoured, the whole body will be happy.’
- This passage in the Bible is speaking about the Church that was established after Jesus returned to heaven. However, we can also apply it to other situations. Just as each of our individual cells contributes to the whole body, each of us must play a vital part in ensuring that each community we belong to - whether it is our family, school or local neighbourhood - works in the best way possible. Without the cooperation and joint effort of our brains, bones and muscles, our human bodies cannot move. Likewise, without our cooperation with our fellow humans, the world would be paralysed.
Time for reflection
The following poem has been attributed to St Teresa of Ávila.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Bless our hands, that we touch what is good.
Bless our feet, that we may walk in your path.
Bless our eyes, that we may look with compassion.
Bless our ears, that we may heed those in need.
Bless our mouths, that we may speak words of comfort.
Make each of our bodies a vital element of the body of Christ.
‘Christ has no body now but yours’ (featuring Josh Garrels). It is 4.24 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7ymxW3rndk