When St. Perpetua was facing martyrdom, a guard taunted her by asking how she was ever going to endure the suffering. She responded, “At that moment, another will suffer within me.” Perpetua believed that she and Christ were one. Christ has chosen to be united with us, the Church, so that we are identified with him. Even our word church has its roots in the Greek Kyriake, which means “what belongs to the Lord.” The Catechism explains that the Church “lives from him, in him, and for him; he lives with her and in her” (807). The union of Christ and the Church is expressed well in the symbolism of a head and a body. A head directs a body. The body needs the head, but the head needs the body, too.
Jesus is supreme over all. Scripture says that God gave Jesus “as head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus is head of the Church because of his primary role in our creation and our redemption. Jesus founded the Church. He brought forth the Church and gave it life through his death and resurrection. Tradition holds that the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ on the cross.
Our union with Christ in the Church is called the Mystical Body. Christ loves and cares for the Church as his own body. Through the sacraments we are joined to Christ and to one another. We each have a role in building up the body and are given gifts to fulfill this role. The same Spirit that flowed through Christ flows through us, enabling us to help one another.
As Christ's Body, we share in his work. Through us, the Church, Christ continues the work of salvation. He speaks and acts through us. Through us, Christ shows forth the love of God for the human race. United with Jesus in his suffering, someday we will share his glory.
Jesus expressed our union with him this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). We draw forth our life from him, especially in Communion. He promised, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56). “We should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). In other words, we should strive to resemble him.
At the end of time when Christ returns in glory, the Church will be perfected. Then we will be gathered in Christ in a love that never ends.
† This is my body! †