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It’s complicated!

How could any Catholic fear the “Body of Christ”?

Receiving the Body of Christ under the appearance of bread at Mass is one of the greatest privileges imaginable! It is amazing to welcome Jesus “under my roof”! It is consoling to sit in adoration before the Body of Christ in the tabernacle.

Which Body of Christ are we talking about?

Are we talking about

  • the Jewish body of Christ that walked the earth 2000 years ago?
  • the beaten body of Christ who hung at the cross?
  • the resurrected body that Mary of Magdala mistook for the gardener?
  • the wounded body of Christ which Thomas touched?
  • the persecuted body of Christ Saul was hunting?

Are we taking about

  • the body of Christ in the least of Jesus’ sisters and brothers?
  • the body of Christ who does look like me or think like me?
  • the body of Christ disfigured in the criminal or the addicted?
  • the body of Christ suffering from dementia?
  • the body of Christ being formed in the womb?

Actually, there are two categories.

  • The body of Christ we are prepared to see and long to see.
  • The body of Christ we either simply don’t see or are frightened to look at.

Our tradition

Jesus teaches us in Mt 25,

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

St. John Chrysostom, preaching on Mt 25, famously taught us to honor Christ’s body not only in the Eucharist but also on the streets.

Would you honor Christ’s body? Do not neglect Him when naked; do not, while you honor Him here [in the church] with silken garments, neglect Him perishing outside of cold and nakedness?

Is this what Vincent had in his heart and mind when he said,

I should not judge poor peasants, men or women, by their surface appearance, nor by their apparent mental capacities. And this is hard to do, since very frequently they scarcely seem to have the semblance or the intelligence of reasonable beings, so gross and so offensive are they. But, turn the coin, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, Whose will it was to be poor, is represented to us by just these people.

Or what Ozanam thought about the body of Christ in our midst.

…. the poor we see with the eyes of flesh; they are there and we can put finger and hand in their wounds and the scars of the crown of thorns are visible on their foreheads; and at this point incredulity no longer has place and we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, “You are my Lord and my God!” You (the poor) are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and not knowing how to love Him otherwise shall we not love Him in the person of the poor?”

Is this not what we see Pope Francis doing in so many ways as he travels the world near and far?

It is not an either/or. To choose one is to miss the point. Christ is really present in so many ways!

Think about

  • Which body of Christ am I aware of holding?
  • Which body of Christ am I repulsed by… or not even see?
  • What difference would it make if I truly saw the body of Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

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