WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST
The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing. [CC 755]
To say, Christ is the vine and we are the braches [See John 15:5], it means we are part of the whole – the body of Christ. This was opined by Apostle Paul when he said: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. [1 Corinthians 12:27]
But how do we become part of this whole – the body of Christ, the Vine, the Church, the Family of God’s people, His kingdom on earth? This answer was made known to Nicodemus by our Saviour Jesus Christ: “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” [John 3:5]
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”5 [CC1213]
So, through faith and baptism we become members of the body of Christ because through the immersion we are buried with Him and rise with Him through His resurrection. [See CC1214]; the white baptismal garment means we put on Christ ie a new creation; the candle light means Christ has enlightened us and we are now the light of the world. [See CC 1243]
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, we become part of the body of Christ – the Vine, the family of God’s people through faith and baptism but we remain in the Vine by being a light to the world.
Therefore, the body of Christ – the Church encompasses arrays of baptized persons – rich and poor; slaves and masters; young and old; men and women; boys and girls; single and married. There are variations in economical, social, cultural, ethnic, financial and spiritual status of these persons. Irrespective of these differences in status, by virtue of their baptism they are given equal status in Christ Jesus as Apostle Paul stated in his letter to the Galatians:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:27-28]
This single and encompassing pieces of clothing binding the various parts of the body of Christ is purposed for all Christ’s faithful to be people oriented; functioning together in love, fellowship, respect for one another and willingness to forgive irrespective of race, ethnicity, colour and gender. And kindly know that works of mercy comes before the works of worship [See Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 10:25-37, Luke 13:10-17]. For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen [1 John 4:20b]. And in truth acts of mercy are acts of worship [See Proverbs 14:31]. Mercy encompasses forgiveness and charity.
Just like the parts of the human body, Christians must learn to share in the pain, joy and the general wellbeing of every member of the Household of God. In truth, that is what it takes to remain in the Vine or to be light to the world. The church, the body of Christ, was purchased to give glory to God [See 1 Corinthians 6: 20], it is holy and not for sexual immorality [See 1 Corinthians 6: 18] but as the Shrine of the Holy Spirit [See 1 Corinthians 6: 19]. The body cannot grow if we continue to envy, fight and speak evil of one other [See James 4:1-2, 11].
So, let us be careful not to create more division within the Christendom. Let us put an end to sayings like: I belong to Paul, I belong to Apollos [See I Corinthians 3:4-6]. Before His Passion, Christ prayed earnestly for us to be one. [See John 17:21-23]. So, why are we rebelling against Christ’s will for His people?
Apostle Paul once appealed to the people of Galatians, “…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. [See Galatians. 5:13-15]
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. [1 Corinthians 3:17]
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. [Galatians 5:6; I Corinthians 13:1-13]
The body is called to walk in love for by this shall all men know we are His disciples [See John 13: 35], then we can disciple the nations. Individually, everyone is called to discover their specific purpose in the Body and minister in that capacity according to the gifts we were given [See Romans 12: 6-8]. This is a call for the laity to be more involved and not be bench warmers or church attenders.
In his book: Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren said:
The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, where do you belong – a church attender or a member of the household of God? It is just a personal question for self-reflection.
Dear people of God, we all have special gifts of the Holy Spirit to contribute toward the unit of the body of Christ – His church. We all have talents that we help us to be fruitful in service toward God and humanity because the mission of the body of Christ is, to be salt of the earth and light of the world [See Matthew 5:13-16]
Finally, in one of his weekly General Audience addresses to the faithful gathering in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said:
The image of the body helps us understand this deep connection between the Church and Christ, that St. Paul develops especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. ch. 12). Above all, the body brings to mind a living reality. The Church is not a care association, or a cultural or political one, but is a living body, which walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, nourishes and sustains it. This is a point that I would like to emphasize: if you separate the head from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church: we need to stay connected to Jesus in an increasingly intense way.
But not only that: as in a body, it is important for the lifeblood to pass through it, so we must allow Jesus to operate in us, must allow his Word to guide us, his Eucharistic presence to nourish us, animate us, we must allow his love to give strength to our loving our neighbor. And this, always! Always! Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust him, let us orient our lives according to his Gospel, nourishing ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God and participation in the Sacraments.”
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen
Jesus Christ Speaks
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 NRSV).