For as with the human body which is a unity although it has many parts — all the parts of the body, though many, still making up one single body — so it is with Christ. We were baptised into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
By: Ashley Blackburn and Susan Skinner
We are one body in Christ. I don’t think we understand this yet. Until we do, we will live in a perpetual state of discord. The Mystical Body of Christ will heal when we understand and want the salvation of other people. Not in the sense that we want to control them, which comes from a spirit of control, but because we love them. From that love we want to know them and see them as part of the Mystical Body of Christ.
If we picture all of us as part of this Body, we would stop slinging poison arrows at one another, and we would start trying to heal the broken part. We all focus so much on our own suffering and wanting out of it that we forget that our responses and reactions affect other people. Suffering is part of this world. Christ told us;
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
People tend to think that holiness means you don’t suffer. We look at the Blessed Virgin, who is the perfect human being and we think, “She is perfect,” and we conclude that it must have been easy for her. It’s true she was born without original sin. So was Eve. And the biggest difference between Eve and Mary is that Mary actually knew what evil was. Eve didn’t, she had never seen it. But did this perfection of Mary mean she didn’t suffer? Of course not. We need only look at her sorrows to see the stark realization of how much she actually suffered. She suffered more than most. So the question becomes what did she do with the suffering? She used her suffering for us.
Redemptive suffering is a sacrifice of our own free choice, putting aside our human will in order to choose the Will of God, imitating Jesus’ passion and participating in the redemption of the collective Body of Christ. Mary exemplified this. It does not always mean we endure physical pain in order to participate in redemptive suffering, though that is certainly one way we can. There are many ways that we participate in this, both big and small. For example, praying for our neighbor is a smaller sacrifice, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Praying for others usually takes us away from our own plans, our own prayers for ourselves, our own agendas. It means offering the time we spend in prayer for another, instead of for ourselves, or maybe spending more time in prayer than we typically do in order to offer up the additional prayers for those in need. When was the last time you prayed for someone who irritated you? Instead of railing against them, and calling your friends to complain and gossip, what if you actually prayed? Even and especially if you didn’t feel like it. We should not be ruled by feelings, but by our soul which should be aligned with the Will of God.
This small sacrifice to pray for our neighbor is no small thing at all. In fact in our offering prayers for our neighbor, we are actually participating in the redemption of the collective Body of Christ. All sacrifices, both big and small, are an act of love for another, where we lay down our life for our friend. For the majority of us, this does not mean actual martyrdom like Jesus did for us. Rather it is a setting aside of the happenings of our own life, in order to offer support, through prayer and sacrifice, for another, in order to build the collective Body of Christ. Jesus tells us and showed us that this is the greatest act of love, to lay down our lives for our friends. When we begin to pray for others as if they were part of our own body, something amazing happens to US. Not to mention what the prayers do for them. This is why we are a COMMUNION OF SAINTS. We are not meant to be in this alone.
In order to understand HOW to do this we must look to Jesus’ passion, where he laid down his life for us. Meditate on the Passion of Christ. What we will notice is that Jesus didn’t resist the suffering in any way. He endured to the end in humble obedience to the plan of his Father. Jesus knew that his passion was in God’s plan, he trusted that God’s plan was better than what his human will was telling him. In the Garden, Jesus asked God to remove the suffering, a request of his human will, but only if it meant God’s Will would still be done. His human will wanted to avoid the suffering, but he ultimately chose to submit to the Will of God and was obedient to that over and above his own will.
During the passion we also know that Christ forgave his accusers and executioners in the midst of his suffering. He didn’t hold a grudge. He looked at them through the eyes of Divine Mercy. So amidst the sinful people that surrounded him that day, as well as all those who lived both before and after him, Jesus showed us how to make reparation through our suffering for the sins of others. His freely giving of himself for all of humanity and loving despite the injustice, ingratitude, misunderstanding, denial, rejection and everything else that humanity has done and will do to him, is the ultimate act of reparation. If we want to overcome our suffering, we must follow what Jesus did, which was to forgive and love others despite his circumstance and despite their not having done anything to deserve his love. Unconditional love is what defeats the attempts of Satan to break us down and convince us to sin because of the intense suffering that we are in.
Redemptive suffering is more than just offering a prayer for someone in the midst of our pain. It is repairing the damage done to the collective Body of Christ through the sinful acts of others. It is an ever weaving thread of Gods love that mends the broken parts, heals the sick parts and restores the damage done to the body, bringing it back to life. Jesus, the Body of Christ, who is the full revelation of God’s Word, accomplished this in his passion and death. We, the faithful who collectively makeup the Body of Christ, are called to do the same. To participate in the redemption of the Body through our own self sacrificial love for others. Mary lived this.
The vast array of human beings who make up the collective Body of Christ are living in many different parts of the world and are in varying degrees of personal relationship with Christ. With Jesus as the head and the heart of the Body, through which we are led and given life, the rest of the Body must sacrifice itself, along with the head and heart, in order to aid another part that is hurting. The hurting body part may be in pain from it’s own doing, just as the executioners of Jesus were intentionally causing pain and suffering to the Body of Christ. But Jesus shows us that even in this situation he chose to forgive, to exemplify self sacrificing love in order to shower his Divine Mercy out upon them in the hope of their healing and restoration. He sacrificed his very life, although he could have stopped the whole thing, in order to forgive and heal instead of cutting off all the people who had turned away from him and choose to give in to their own will instead of choosing to follow the Will of God. Likewise, our own acts of self-sacrifice love, despite the deservedness of the other, is what makes reparation for their sinful presence within the Body of Christ. But instead of cutting them off completely, they remain through Divine Mercy. If our own physical body was not functioning, we would make every effort to get it to function, especially through prayer. We would have mercy on our broken body part, so we must extend this mercy that we would give to ourselves, to others. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. One freely flows from the other.
If we look back on our lives, we all have been helped by other parts of the Body during times of our own sinfulness. As Jesus explained it to Mary Magdalene and the disciples, those who are forgiven much, love much. In this same way, those who have been suffered for and prayed for because of their sin, those who have come out on the other side restored back to the Body and saved from their sin, are those who have the capacity of great love for other sinners in the Body who are struggling. It is those saved sinners who have the duty and call to that same self sacrificial, often times hidden, love from one part of the Body to another.
The promise of God is perfect union with Him in eternal life. This is what we are called to hold onto in all things, the good and bad, because we trust in God and believe that he wants what is best for us for all eternity. Our journey on this earth is short and it does not include the promise of a life free of suffering in this world. Just look at the numerous stories of God’s people in scripture. Just read the story of Job. But the promise of God is true and it is revealed once and for all through the resurrection of Jesus. As Christians, our hope lies in what is to come, our eternity. But we don’t have to wait until eternity to bring the Kingdom of God here. Our Saints showed us what this looks like. It is called complete sanctification. It is our duty to help make reparation for all sinners until they are able to come to their own personal conversion and eternal reward. Through our self-sacrificial love, imitating Jesus Christ in his passion and death, we too participate in the redemption of the world. We are one Body in Christ, and we do not stand alone. Don’t waste your suffering. Suffer well, it brings healing.
Have a safe and Blessed New Year!
Clothing for the Mystical Body of Christ ….
We should all take time to contemplate the spiritual metaphor of the “body”. There is no doubt about that. Thank you, Susan, for this heart-felt meditation on how the parts of the body are meant to work together in the sharing of suffering , one of Saint Paul’s favorite themes….
But, in fact, it seems to me that “we struggle very much with anything having to do with the idea of the physical, human body, because the image of the BODY has been so utterly twisted, tainted and confused in our times, hasn’t it ? Saint JPII was really inspired to help us when he launched the enormous ” theology of the body” back in the 1980’s !
Today we are still really confused about our bodies….and that is why it makes for further struggle when we try to look to the body in spiritual terms. It has been explained to me that part of the blockage is that we in America are under the influence of Puritan notions about the human body, thoughts that are in fact totally “alien” or foreign to Catholic theology !!!
One of the most beautiful aspects of Catholicism is indeed its spiritual understanding of the Mystery of the Incarnation, and how our bodies are meant to participate actively in the spiritual life: Lex orandi, lex credendi. We are meant to pray with our bodies and express our faith actively using the body in movements and gestures that aptly declare our faith. Our body is a Holy Ground, and meant to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit and yet we readily: eat and drink anything, listen to any kind of music, watch all sorts of horrible images on screens, breathe in incense and use aromatherapies, whose temporal and spiritual origins we have no idea of !!! ( those in the industry will admit that most of these products have received “prayers to incite addiction” , or worse…) ALL of that is the spiritual equivalent of playing in a fully radioactive field ! Yet we continue….
Moreover, this is why the practice of a spiritual, physical activity such as Yoga (meaning The Yoke, in Hindi !) is offensive to the Most Blessed Trinity in ways we will only comprehend during the Illumination of Conscience (which event is found in the Book of Revelation: Jesus, the Rider Faithful and True, who will bear the Sword of the Holy Spirit and by touching souls individually and collectively, He will grant penetrating spiritual Knowledge and Understanding to the whole earth) . As we all know by now what any Yogi will readily attest : every single posture in Yoga is a salutation to a different Hindu god ! Do we think that GOD ALMIGHTY DOES NOT SEE US ?
The historic influence of Puritanism in America and the present day influence of Hinduism, just to name two sources, speak legions of explanation as to why the Mystery of Co-Redemption is STILL causing trouble in the Church after so many centuries. I have read that the meaning of the tiny little prefix “CO” has caused much erroneous division amongst theologians in spite of the fact that it simply means “WITH”. Nothing more. Nothing less. To say that we are all Co-Redeeming with Christ, or that Our Lady Co-Redeemed with Him at the Foot of the Cross should , in fact, be blatantly obvious to all Christians without any form of ontological dispute. Yet…. It is not so!
Because we still do not comprehend the proper place and the role of our bodies in God’s Creation.
Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians goes a very long way in our instruction….especially the introduction known as the Canticle of Colossians. In yesterday’s Second Reading, Saint Paul tells the Colossians about another essential theme found all throughout Sacred Scripture : CLOTHING . In the Bible, we can read about….and contemplate :
The nakedness of childlike simplicity and trust that gave way to the garment of Divine Providence in the Garden, shame causing Adam and Eve to put on “fig leaves”.
There is the garment of Glory was worn by Christ during the Transfiguration, prefiguring how we will be clothed in Heaven one day, God-willing .
There is the garment Peter threw off as he jumped into the lake in shame upon seeing Our Lord and losing trust in His power to save.
There is the outer garment Christ shed before He knelt down to wash the feet of His Disciples.
The infant Jesus in the crib wore swaddling clothes made by His Mother, and She placed a very similar garment upon Him when His clothing was removed at Calvary… in order to preserve the Sacredness of His human dignity and to complete a full circle in His clothing, from Crib to Cross.
We read how cloaks were tossed down before a leader or someone to whom allegiance or honor was due, whether that was at the feet of Saul as he persecuted Stephen to death, or before Christ as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey.
There is an awesome Theology of the Garment to be studied in Sacred Scripture !!!!
To the Colossians , Saint Paul speaks of the Outer Garments of Christian Virtue :
And most especially, the most important outer garment or cloak that is LOVE…
In fact, as any sociologist or anthropologist would argue, clothing really does play an important role in society and sets people apart from one another all over the world, according to how one is dressed outwardly. We cannot see how someone is dressed interiorly or how they are disposed in the depth of their essence, but we sure can see how the look on the outside. That is why Saint Paul insists upon these garments of virtue that should be highly visible to all !
If we wear Outer Garments of Holiness , as Saint Paul described to the Colossians, then all people around us will see Christ instead . It will be obvious to all….and they will know us by our LOVE.
And when we are clothed in holiness, then our interior disposition will eventually begin to take a similar or parallel FORM: Lex orandi, lex credendi ! This miracle of God’s Grace and Mercy can happen every time we make the willful and consience EFFORT of developing HOLY HABITS. Isn’t it funny that the word we use for the garments worn by consecrated religious are called HABITS ??And yes, for most of us, putting on a holy habit is indeed a SACRIFICE !
Susan, thank you for being here . Wishing you and all on your Blog a very Blessed New Year in 2019 : May the Lord graciously clothe us in the habits of Eucharistic Love !!!!
Beautiful Lucy. If the sun represents the will of God, we should all be clothed in it as Mary is.
Oh and Happy New Year. May you be blessed.
Oh YES !
That is the image Our Lady gave to Luisa Piccaretta in her instruction on living in the Divine Will: she likened living in the Divine Will to living in the full radiance of the day light of the Sun, just as she is clothed with the Sun in Revelation 12 ( Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tepeyac ) . May we put on the garment of the Sun and shine its healing rays upon all of humanity, spreading the effects of Grace of the Flame of Love and scattering all darkness !!!
Ashley and Sue, you flesh out very well what Paul talks about in Ephesians and what our Lord Jesus tells us about living our neighbors and enemies. A
Little overwhelming to read, but it is a hard and necessary truth for all of us to hear. Happy New year!
There are many treasures in this blog, including this wonderful posting, and I have bookmarked the Veil of Veronica on my browser. God Bless you all and keep these gems coming!
Thank you and God Bless you!