On the one hand, you are tempted and prone to idolize, worship, and serve your flesh, whether as a child craving toys, candy, or dessert, or as an adult craving food and drink, material possessions, fancy cars, fine clothing, or creature comforts of whatever kind appeal to your personal tastes.
On the other hand, you find out early on just how fragile, fleeting, and unreliable your flesh is. As a child you experience hunger and thirst, discomfort and pain. You know accidents and ouchies, punishments, weaknesses, and inabilities. And as an adult you have to deal with your various inadequacies, failures, aches and pains, wounds and scars, fading glories, and lost opportunities.
Your fleeting and fickle relationship with your own flesh and that of the world around you is the evidence and outcome of the fall into sin, and of your own sinfulness and mortality. Descended from Adam and Eve, you were conceived and born in sin, and death has stalked you ever since.
The irony is that, in your sin, you still desire and pursue that which is perishing and cannot give you life. You invest yourself, your time, attention, energy, and money, in serving your fallen flesh and seeking that which is flesh, even though you already know that none of it will last forever or even for very long. It does not and cannot satisfy you, but only increases your longing for more and more in a pointless pursuit that continues until it has driven you into the ground.
You love the flesh and long for it, even though it dies. So you are driven by this constant appetite and hunger — of the flesh for the flesh — and yet, you do not trust the flesh, neither your own nor that which you idolize. So you resent the hold that it has over you and your dependence on the flesh, because you know that it is going to fail you and that you are going to fail and fade with it.
I suppose that addicts and alcoholics know the feeling more acutely than most, but the problem is common to all the fallen children of Adam and Eve. You make a false god of the flesh, and you spend your whole life worshiping the flesh, all the while it is dying and taking you along with it.
It therefore seems the height of piety and spirituality to disavow and avoid the flesh; to swear off the things of this body and life, and to discipline yourself to do without them; to deny and deprive your own flesh of pleasure, and to despise and demonize the good things of creation. That attitude and approach seems good and right and spiritual, because it seems to be what the Law requires.
To be sure, the Word of the Law is harsh, and it threatens you with deadly fire. It would strip you of all things, consume your clothing, and destroy your flesh. So fierce is the Law that no one can draw near to it without being killed. So it was that Israel cowered in fear at the foot of Mt. Sinai. And so were those valiant and mighty warriors who cast Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego into the midst of the fiery furnace slain by its blazing heat.
But the curse and condemnation of the Law is not aimed at your flesh per se, nor at any flesh in particular, inasmuch as it is the creation of the Lord your God. For all that He has made is good and right, to be received in faith and with thanksgiving, and sanctified by His Word and prayer.
No, what the Law condemns and puts to death is the sin that dwells within your members, that is, within your flesh, infecting and permeating your body and soul with unrighteousness. That is the wickedness of idolatry and unbelief, which originates within your heart, abides within your will, and prevents you from living rightly in the flesh and receiving God’s good creation as He intends.
But now, all that has been written in His Law, all that He demands and requires, has been fulfilled and satisfied by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. He has suffered and died in the flesh, cursed and crucified for the sins of the world. And yet, God has raised Him bodily from the dead.
Not only in His Immaculate Conception and Holy Nativity, but also in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, He possesses a body of flesh and bone, with blood and sinews, lips and teeth, tongue and stomach. He is and remains forever a true Man, a Human Being just like yourself. For He is the Word-made-Flesh who tabernacles with you.
He bore all of your sins, and the sins of the whole world, in His own Body on the Cross, even unto death; but, again, God raised this same Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, bodily from the dead.
His Flesh, therefore, did not suffer decay. For His Flesh is Spirit and Life. His holy Body and His precious Blood are immortal, imperishable, and glorious — as are you and your body in Him.
The crucified and risen Lord Jesus is the Christ, anointed in His Flesh with the Life-giving Spirit of God. Genuine piety and true spirituality thus derive from, depend upon, and live in His Body.
In Him, all things are pure, and all of Creation is made brand new; for the resurrection of all flesh has been accomplished in His Body. That is why you are now able to receive the good gifts of God in faith and with thanksgiving, also for this body and life, and to sanctify them to yourself by the Word of Christ Jesus. Indeed, all the earth with joy is sounding in His Resurrection from the dead.
He has entered the fire with you and for you, this Son of God in the flesh, so that you are spared from death and suffer no harm. The Law cannot touch you or have any effect on you, because it is already satisfied by Christ. He is your God in the flesh, who has conquered death forevermore.
And as you eat and drink with Him — the Meal of His Flesh and Blood — you are begotten of God in body and soul, and you live in Him, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.