We Are One Body

Did you know that there are Catholic commentaries on the Bible? These are books that help us to interpret passages, words, characters, and events in Sacred Scripture. We priests use these! The one that I use for homilies, Bible studies, and overall knowledge is called the Navarre Bible commentary. The series I have covers all of the books of the New Testament. It is an excellent source that can be trusted to interpret and illuminate sacred texts faithfully and fruitfully. To give you a sample, below is some of the Navarre commentary on the beginning verses of today’s second reading (1 Cor 12:12-30).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

“(verses) 12-13: In Greek and Latin literature, society is often compared to a body; even today we talk of ‘corporations’, a term which conveys the idea that the citizens of a particular city are responsible for the common good. St. Paul, starting with this metaphor, adds two important features: 1) he identifies the Church with Christ: ‘so it is with Christ’ (v.12) and 2) he says that the Holy Spirit is its life-principle: ‘by one Spirit we were all baptized…and made to drink of the Spirit’ (v. 13). The Magisterium summarizes this teaching by defining the Church as the ‘mystical body of Christ’, an expression which ‘is derived from and is, as it were, the fair flower of the repeated teaching of Sacred Scripture and the holy Fathers’ (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis).

‘So it is with Christ’: One would have expected him to say, So it is with the Church, but he does not say that […]. For, just as the body and the head are one man, so too Christ and the Church are one, and therefore instead of “the Church” he says “Christ” (St. John Chrysostom). This identification of the Church with Christ is much more than a mere metaphor; it makes the Church a society which is radically different than any other society:

‘The complete Christ is made up of the head and the body, as I am sure you know well. The head is our Savior himself, who suffered under Pontius Pilate and now, after rising from the dead, is seated at the right hand of the Father. And his body is the Church. Not this or that church, but the Church which is to be found all over the world. Nor is it only that which exists among us today, for also belonging to it are those who lived before us and those who will live in the future, right up to the end of the world. All this Church, made up of the assembly of the faithful – for all the faithful are members of Christ – has Christ as its head, governing his body from heaven. And although this head is located out of sight of the body, he is, however, joined to it by love’ (St. Augustine).

The Church’s remarkable unity derives from the Holy Spirit who not only assembles the faithful into a society but also imbues and vivifies its members, exercising the same function as the soul does in a physical body.

‘All were made to drink of one Spirit’: given that the Apostle says this immediately after mentioning Baptism, he seems to be referring to a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit, possibly in the sacrament of Confirmation. It is not uncommon for Sacred Scripture to compare the outpouring of the Spirit to drink, indicating that the effects of his presence are to revive the parched soul; in the Old Testament the coming of the Holy Spirit is already compared to dew, rain, etc.; and St. John repeats what our Lord said about ‘living water’ (Jn 7:38; cf. 4:13-14).

Together with the sacraments of Christian initiation, the Eucharist plays a special role in building up the unity of the body of Christ. ‘Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up in communion with him and with one another. ‘Because the bread is one, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor 10:17). In this way all of us are made members of his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), ‘and individual members of one another’ (Rom 12:5)’ (Lumen Gentium, 7).”