What It Means to be the Body of Christ

by Anita Zidar

In his letters to the Church of Corinth, St Paul wrote, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

The Church is called the body of Christ because Christ is the head of the Church and we are called to be part of and partake of the good works of Christ, each of us in our own ways, just like the different organ systems of the body. Our bodies cannot function holistically if our organs systems are not each doing what they should. Similarly, each of us have different skills, purposes, and spiritual gifts, yet every believer is equally important to the mission of the Church.

When babies are born, they are not yet aware of their bodies. I observed this with my own son, whom when he was a newborn baby, would flail his arms about awkwardly with his eyes wide open as if he was saying, ”Oh my! What is this? What am I looking at?” I later realised this was because it is dark in the womb, and babies actually do not know that their arms are part of their bodies for the first two months of their lives after birth. As a baby, my son needed to first come into the light and be guided in getting to know and recognise his own body before he could grasp the fact that what he was looking at were his own arms.

Similarly, Jesus calls us to His body, the Church. He leads us into the light so that we may first recognise our true selves and grow in awareness of our own unique beings. In doing so, He also leads us to grow in awareness that our beings are not separate entities, but different members of the same body, the body of Christ, the Church. When we are able to recognise this, we begin to see that all parts of the body are equally necessary for our salvation!

The CCC tells us,The body’s unity does not do away with the diversity of its members: “In the building up of Christ’s Body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.” The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.” Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (CCC 791)

The experience of being part of the body of Christ goes deeper than just that of family relationships. Just like the co-mingling of the water and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist, It emphasizes an inextricable intimacy with Christ and His people. A union is established where Jesus becomes part of us, and us, Him. We belong to Him, and we are in Him. This union by faith also unites us to the Greater Church and transforms the way we live and relate to others. Each person becomes not only more precious, but they become as precious to us as ourselves. Our sorrows, suffering, pain and joy are all linked and not just our own anymore. Similarly, our victory is no longer our own but the victory of the entire body!

It is like when we consume an enriching meal, it does not just benefit our stomach. It is broken down, digested, and it’s nutrients are distributed to the various parts of our body so that our organs can continue to do what they should for the benefit of the entire body. So too, is the salvation of Jesus Christ. When the salvation of Jesus reaches one of us, it is meant for the salvation of the others as well.

I have found this to be true in my own life. Doing life and working alongside my colleagues at the Office for Young People, I have experienced living as part of Christ’s body in the best possible way. I have seen how the witness of faith in the lives of my colleagues (who are actually more like family) has been the key to Jesus’ salvation in my own life and is a constant reminder that I do not just live for my own pleasure and self.

As one body, we truly experience everything together. Our lives are not just our own. We are redeemed, justified, forgiven, loved and made new with and for each other by Jesus Christ for His glory. By the blood of Jesus, a life in Him has been won for us  as an everlasting inheritance. Our identity as individual yet intrinsic parts of the body of Christ is a significant one. There is ever more to be discovered and revealed for,“no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

Take heart brothers and sisters! The best is yet to come!

 

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