The most difficult parts of staying at home these past months have been the inability to see friends and family the way we would like and the inability to be physically present in our faith communities. While some might be venturing back to church, others are unable to do so for various reasons. Being physically separated from worshiping with the Body of Christ also means we are unable to receive Holy Communion. Hopefully these ‘losses’ have led to reflection upon what indescribable gifts these are. Whether or not we have returned to celebrating within our churches, perhaps this past Sunday, (the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ), felt extra special. And as such we should continue to reflect upon it, taking the time to recognize the privilege that it is to be a member of the Body of Christ and what an unfathomable gift it is to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ when we receive the Eucharist.*
We are part of the one Body of Christ which paradoxically is both ours and not ours. It is ours because each of us is part of the Body, united as one, joined to it by baptism. Because it is ours we have a responsibility to take care of the entire Body, that is, each member of it. And thus we should reflect upon what St. Paul said when he wrote that each member has equal value and importance no matter what their placement or function in the body might be. (1 Corinthians 12) Each member, then, is not only of equal importance and dignity, but each one has the responsibility of taking care of the other parts, as well as taking care of themselves both in a physical and spiritual sense. Therefore, if one member hurts, all hurt; if one member sins, all are diminished. Conversely, if one member is healed, all partake in the healing. The Body, then, is ours because we belong to it and are united “as one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:29)
But the Body is also not ours. We do not own or possess it; rather, it belongs to Christ, the Head of the Body. We are not our own: we belong to Christ, 'purchased with His Blood’ when He chose to die on the Cross for us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) At our baptism we became part of His very Body through the love given by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are His and we belong to Him. This does not mean we lose freedom, however; rather, it joins us to God in a way that reinforces the gift of freedom which we have always had. Remember that true freedom does not mean we can do anything we want, when we want. Freedom means we choose to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, something which actually leads us to greater freedom because it connects us more fully to God. God is the source of all freedom and we must remember that freedom is about Truth, (that which is revealed by God) not about our egos or wants: freedom is about what communicates love to our brothers and sisters and to our Lord in our so doing. True freedom, because it is based on love, builds up, it does not tear down.
Freedom means that we are connected to the love that is God. Thus, loving our neighbor, whoever that person might be, (everyone, including those who are not members of the Body of Christ) is what it means to live in freedom. You see, freedom is also both ours and not ours. It is ours because the ability to choose is a gift we have all received; it is not ours because it has to be offered and shared, just as love has to be shared. We do not possess freedom all for ourselves. For freedom to be true, it has to be extended to others, but always grounded in love no matter what the response of the other might be. Therefore, we need to be prayerful and discerning about how we choose to respond to one another. Again, freedom does not mean ‘throwing all caution to the wind’ and doing what feels good: freedom means doing what Jesus would have us do, something which can be difficult at times. Loving our neighbor means listening to one another, forgiving wrongs, being willing to change, and trying to make the best choices, the loving ones which are grounded in Truth. Freedom is not an easy gift to bear, nor is love, if we are honest, because it means at times we must sacrifice our needs, wants, self-centeredness, our way of doing or seeing things, to follow the gospel of love. Jesus said the truth will set us free. (John 8:31-32) Yes, it will when we accept it. The truth is that we are One Body receiving from the source of Love: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which unites and empowers us as members of that one Body. Let us pray with this in the days ahead, reflecting on the gospels, praying for discernment prior to our much needed action, that what we do is grounded in love, and that we work toward justice and respect for all God’s people, recognizing that living with dignity, something we share with all people, truly does set us free.
May we reflect upon the gifts of our membership in the Body of Christ and of the Eucharist! May we embrace the paradox that the Body of Christ is both ours and not ours! May we share freedom grounded in Truth and Love with all our brothers and sisters! And may we be filled with the Holy Spirit as we pray for discernment and then move to action, small or large, in order to heal the Body and build up the Kingdom! Let us continue to meet in the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Just a note: When we receive only the consecrated host, the Body of Christ, we are still receiving the fullness of Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We are not 'losing something of Jesus' if we do not receive from the cup. Each of the species, host become His Body and wine become His Blood, contain the fullness of Jesus.
1. Painting, St. Hilarion by Arthur Lismer, (1885-1969) Lismer was one of the Canadian "Group of Seven" artists.
2. Painting, inset of Chalice and Host by Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-1684) .
3. Icon La Sangre de Cristo by Fr. William Hart McNichols. If you are interested in a copy you can purchase one in one of many mediums at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/la-sangre-de-cristo-242-william-hart-mcnichols.html
4. Painting, Festival of Lights, by John August Swanson.
5. My photo: Paris city street, taken from the window in the hotel room in which I was staying on a trip a few years back: a bustling city, representative of all God's people.
Heart Speaks to Heart