Reflection on Church as the Body of Christ (Reflection given as part of a series of talks on Church during the Nine-Day “Simbang Gabi” in preparation for Christmas):
As you may have read Father Resti’s letter and as Fr. Gerome mentioned last night, during these nine days of “Simbang Gabi”, nightly Eucharistic novena masses, we are taking this opportunity to learn more about the church – to understand the models of being a church… to thank God, who gathers us in faith and gifted us with this wonderful community, the treasures that matter.
Fr.Resti confidently said that – because it was affirmed when we got the results from the survey conducted as part of our feasibility study for our capital campaign. 93% of those interviewed and 90% of in-pew survey respondent gave a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ perception of the parish overall… and so we would like to build up and nurture the great things already happening in our parish… so that we truly can become “a church on the hill” so to speak, that we continue to radiate the Light and Love of Christ… as individuals and as a community… even beyond our parish.
Last night, Father Gerome talked about Church as the People of God… not the building …This evening, the theme is on Church, the People of God – us – as the Body of Christ.
Let me start with this account of St. Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ from the Acts of Apostles (Acts 9: 1-22):
Meanwhile, Saul (St Paul’s name then) was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. As he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to Him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
You see- Paul had never met Jesus in the flesh. However- he had been persecuting Christ through His Church… meaning- Jesus is identified with the Church and her members. Jesus is really, truly present in His Body – the Church – on earth…
We hear people say – I believe in Jesus but I do not need the Church…
Pope Paul VI said it is ‘an absurd dichotomy’ – or contradictory – to want to live with Jesus without the church, to follow Jesus outside the church, to love Jesus without the church.” Christ and the Church are inseparable.
St. Peter 2nd letter: “Through the Church, God has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through the Church you may come to share in the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4). God created us so we can share in His divine life.
St. Paul wrote: The Church is not a charitable, cultural or political association, but a living body, that walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, feeds and supports it. (1Corinthians:12).
While our relationship with Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God’s family, as members of the Body of Christ, we are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity. St. Paul wrote: “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).
Pope Francis – in his homily: Too often, even Catholics do not understand that to belong to Jesus the Head means to belong to His Body, the Church. That belonging is meant to be a lived, relational, transforming reality.
In other words – We are called to belong, not just believe.
The early Christians did not see – belonging to the Church – as something optional. They saw it as what should be normal for every Christian and therefore life giving. We are saved through the community.
The process of redemption began at our baptism … when we become members of the Body of Christ. It continues as we cooperate with the Grace given to us in our life within the Church.
St Paul says that as members of the human body, although different and many, we form one body, as we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13). In the Church, therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions; there is richness of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes.
In the words of the popular Classic Catholic Hymn – We Are Many Parts (Marty Haugen)
Refrain: We are many parts, we are all one body,
and the gifts we have, we are given to share.
May the Spirit of love make us one indeed,
one, the love that we share,
one, our hope in despair.
one, the cross that we bear.
1. So my pain is pain for You, in Your joy is my joy too; all is brought together in the Lord.
2. All you seekers, great and small, seek the greatest gift of all; If you love, then you will know the Lord.
We are many parts, we are all one body,
Meaning – There is communion and unity: we are all in a relation to each other and we all come together to form one living body, deeply connected to Christ.
To St.Paul, being a “member” of the church meant being a vital organ of a living body, an indispensable, interconnected part of the Body of Christ. … meaning – each one us is uniquely vital or important part of the Body.
And – Let us remember this as well: being part of the Church means
1) being united to Christ and receiving from Him the divine life that makes us live as Christians; Jesus said that without Him we cannot do anything.
2) it means remaining united to the Pope, the Vicar of Christ and the Bishops who are instruments of unity and communion,
3) and it also means overcoming personal interests and divisions, in order to understand each other better, to harmonize the variety and richness of each member;
– Meaning – to love God and the people who are next to us, in the family, in the parish, in the associations we might find ourselves in.
Realistically – humans and sinful as we are, conflicts arise.
Pope Francis said that conflicts, when they don’t end well, separate us from each other, they separate us from God. Conflict can help us to grow but can also divide us. We must not travel the path of division, of conflict among us, – NO – But – we must all be united – with our differences – united because that is the path of Jesus!
As Father Resti stated in his pastoral letter: “Let us pray to God for the grace that we need to fill what is lacking in us, to finally heal our wounded history, and to enhance a true spirit of unity which is so important in building a stronger sense of community. Together we do not only take care and forgive one another, but we set out on the journey together in learning how to be one, united parish family. “One Body of Christ.”
I close with this:
As Catholics, we believe the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood of Jesus. We believe this because Jesus said so. The Eucharist unites us with one another in community, and it strengthens us on our journey to the kingdom. Like all sacraments, it is a sign that God is with us on our pilgrimage… Emmanuel = God with us. .. and so we come to God as one Body in this 9-day Eucharistic novena.
St. Augustine said about the Eucharist: “Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are: the Body of Christ.” When we say “Amen”, we are saying “Yes! I believe this is the Body and Blood of Christ and that I will be the Body of Christ to others.” We become what we partake – The Body of Christ…
St. Teresa of Avila: Christ has No Body now on earth but yours…
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours… Church.