Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Two levels of unity

In chapter 12 St. Paul deals with one of the guiding images of the Church over the centuries, the Body of Christ. We should remember, however, that this theology is rooted in a more primal unity.

The starting point for understanding the unity of the Body of Christ is the unity of all humanity described in the Book of Genesis.  As Christians we believe that every human being is created by the collaboration of a father, a mother, and God. The father and mother create the body and God implants the soul. There is one God and therefore one humanity of which we are all parts. And from that first moment every life is sacred.  The scriptures tell us that we are the image and likeness of God. It is what sets all human life apart from other animals.

But do we really believe this? Every time I hear a Christian use the phrase "those people" I cringe.  Funny how we are rarely being complimentary we say "those people."

But all of the above is only the beginning, because, as St. Paul reminds us, Jesus takes that unity to a whole other level entirely.  From the moment a person is baptized with water "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Mt. 28:19), they are united to Jesus Christ in a new way.  St. Paul describes it this way.

Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.

All of the more than 2.2 billion Christians in the world connected.  

The first part I think we are ok with, the fact that we are all part of the Body of Christ. It is the second part that I think we have some trouble with, the idea that we are individually part of each other.

Some Caldean Christian in Iraq is part of me? Yes. Some Syro-Malankara Christian in India is part of me? Yes.  Or closer to home both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are part of me, and part of you.  And we are part of them.

Now it gets uncomfortable.

In the Catholic, we distinguish between those who are in full communion with the Church and those who are not, but we never deny that other validly baptized Christians are part of the one body of Christ.

Baptism cannot be undone. As we hear in 2 Timothy "if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

We are stuck with each other. That is part of the challenge of living the Christian faith. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. And if some part of the body falls ill, we do not chop it off, we run to the doctor. We do everything possible to save it.

While we rush to judgment and want to defeat our enemies. When early Christians wondered why God wasn't punishing their enemies fast enough to suit them. The answer was:
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pt 3:9)

We are part of a body that just on the earth today has more than 2 billion body parts. As we drive today, as we turn on the television or read or see or hear news on some device. In every country we hear named and surrounding us here in our own country are people who are all individually part of each of us and we are part of them, whether we like them or not.