In the first article of this series, we recognized that we, the members of the Church, by virtue of being members of the Church, are members of Christ’s Mystical Body. We are one with each other in the Body, for all parts of a body are united to each other in their shared mission towards the growth and life of that body; this is true despite each of us having different gifts and vocations from each other.
In the second article of this series, we recognized that it is fully and completely Christ’s body in which we are united together. It is only by Christ being the Head of the Mystical Body that we are able to say that the Church is one with Him and His mission in bringing all people throughout the world to love of Him and eternal salvation.
Now that we see our union with each other and our union with Christ, it is important to ask the final question: how does this affect my relationship with Christ? What does it truly mean in practice and in life to be a member of this Mystical Body?
The Implications Such Unions Have Upon Our Spiritual Journey
Numerous answers can be given that would add to our wonder and study of such questions, but all of them can be summed up into one statement:
We all feel what the rest of the body feels, we feel what Christ feels, and Christ feels what we feel.
Imagine your own body. If you experience pleasure or happiness it is never merely some part of you that experiences it, your entire self experiences that pleasure and happiness. Say you get a back massage, for example. Your back is the part of the body that directly feels the physical pleasure, but you yourself, and thus your entire body, feels good because of the massage.
Similarly if you stub your toe on a piece of furniture then your toe will be the part of the body that directly experiences the pain, but you yourself, by virtue of being united with that part of the body, will experience the pain, as will the rest of the parts of the body, even if not in a direct way.
So it is within the Mystical Body of Christ. If one part experiences God’s mercy and love then all the parts experience the same because the Body itself experiences it. If one part suffers due to persecution, famine, and the like then the whole Body suffers along with it.
And Jesus Christ Himself is not removed from these experiences. In fact, he feels them much more intimately than we do because it is His body. Any and all joy, pleasure, sadness, suffering and love that we as members of the Church experience, He experiences because of how deeply united He is to us. What we feel IS what He feels. What we sense IS what He senses.
This radical union that we have with Christ does not merely work in one direction, though. It is not just that what we go through is what He goes through; it is also that what He endured is what we will endure. We will encounter death, despair, trials, temptations, but also life, wonder, bliss, and satisfaction, all because He experienced all that and more. The Body experiences what the Person experiences, for the two are not really two, but one.
This simple yet profound reality illuminates much of the words of Jesus Himself.
For why will we be ‘handed over to the courts’ and scourged (Matt. 10: 17)? Because Jesus Himself was handed over to the courts and scourged (Mark 15: 1-15).
Why must we love our enemies and allow them to, after striking us ‘on one cheek, offer the other as well’ (Luke 6: 29)? Because Jesus did exactly that (John 19: 1-3).
Why must we go throughout the whole world and ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matt 28: 19)? Because Jesus was also sent by the Father ‘into the world’ (John 17: 18).
Why will the world hate us and persecute us (John 15: 18-21)? Because the world hated and persecuted Him (John 15: 18-21).
Why will we be resurrected body and soul ‘on the last day’ (John 6: 40)? Because Jesus was resurrected, body and soul after his own death (Luke 24).
If we are truly members of Jesus’ Mystical Body then there is nothing that He has experienced on Earth that we will not also experience. If we are truly members of His Body then we are called to do all that He did, even if it means severe and brutal retaliation from those who are not part of the Body of Christ.
To be part of Jesus’ Body is to be one with Jesus. And to be one with Jesus is to uphold, defend, and treasure the entire Body. We are to do this for one reason only: because that is what each and every part of any single body is supposed to do, to do all that we can to protect and cherish the life of the Body of which we are a part.
If our ultimate goal is to love God and to spend eternal life with Him, then we must and we will love His Body, for to love His entire Body is the same as to love Christ.