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!