The Word Embodied

The Church of Unity

“One bread, one body.” (1 Corinthians 10:17)

Moses instructed his people to remember how their God worked great wonders for them, brought them together, led them through the desert, fed them with a bread from heaven, freed them from slavery, and guided them through vast and dangerous lands. 

So it is that we who call ourselves a “new Israel” might recall as well. What brought us together? What has been our journey? What has led us through the desert and given us food and drink? What liberates us? These are the questions of our unity—our history, our sustenance, our common faith.

The celebration of diversity sounds throughout our communities these days, from Boston and San Diego to Beirut and Santiago, But what keeps us together? What is the cohesion and unity that gives flesh and blood to our faith? If there is nothing that unifies us, what is the point of diversity?

Our body is Jesus Christ. Our source of unity is not Europe or America, not liberal or conservative, not charism or tradition, not white or colored pigment, not male or female, not papist or evangelical. It is Christ.

Corpus Christi, the body and blood of Christ, is the marriage of God and us. This union took place not only in the Incarnation; it is reenacted in our Eucharists, whereby God in Christ is made one with our very flesh, the living sign that God is with and for us now and always.
  “I am the living bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread shall live forever; the bread I give is my flesh for the life of the world.” For Christians there can be no life, if their life is not in Christ.

We often wonder: is there anything that is required of us to call ourselves Catholic, Christian? There is. To deny Christ is to deny our union. To deny that he is the very Word of God made flesh is to deny what we are. To deny that his death and Resurrection have saved us is to reject our cohesion. And to deny his real presence in our prayer together—especially our eucharistic prayer—is to reject our history and common identity.

We may be beset by sin or ignorance. We may fall short of what Christ has called us to. We may be confused by teachings or confounded by canon law, but we remain part of his body. If our particularity is all we have, if we think our individual lives are closed in upon themselves with their own isolated growth apart from the body of Christ, we develop cancerously, like separated and selfish cells.

But if the Eucharist is the celebration of our unity, it is our remembrance, our being remembered, put back together as one body in Jesus Christ who shared our flesh and blood. Our solidarity in this faith is greater than all our differences when we partake of one food and drink to nourish us on our way.

Our Communion lines to the altars of the world have all the splendor of tribes and customs, colors and song, classes and age. But they are processions to the one great gift we share. For this reason the refrain of Father John Foley’s majestic hymn of unity rings true:

One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
one cup of blessing which we bless;
and we, though many, throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

John Kavanaugh, SJ

Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson