January 23, 2022 Essay: One Body, Many Hands, and Feet

Jan 20, 2022

Imagine yourself sitting in the synagogue where Jesus of Nazareth stands up to read the words of the prophet Isaiah. He reads these lines:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me 
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to
captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Calmly, Jesus rolls up the scroll and sits down. All eyes look intently at him. Would you believe that he is the anointed one sent by God? Would you think it was blasphemous? How would you react if you did not know who this man was?

Since we know the whole story, it may be difficult to transport ourselves back in time without a bias. Take time to pause and reflect on this scene to see what your reaction would have been. At that time in history, Jesus was countercultural. He did not come to divide people; he came to unify people. “That they be one.” (John 17:21). Jesus is the One who came to unify us and teach us to go out in love to serve humankind, and by serving humankind, we serve God.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul reaffirms that we are all baptized into the one body of Christ. Jews, Greeks, enslaved people, free persons—all are invited to the table of Christ. The people of Corinth were deeply divided at this time, and Paul preached to help unify the Corinthians by reminding them what Jesus taught. In his metaphor of the body, Paul reminds us how integral each part of the body forms the whole. Today, we are reminded that each of us is an essential part of Christ’s body that forms the whole—the Church. Also, we are called to carry on the work to feed the hungry and work tirelessly for freedom and liberty for all people. As St. Ignatius of Loyola has shown us in his life’s work and the lives of the Jesuits have shown us and continue to show us that we can also be “contemplatives in action.” The Holy Spirit has gifted every one of us a talent to bring forth into the mission of the Church in which we are called to action. We understand that Catholic Social Teaching calls us to bear witness to injustice and go out in action as an integral part of Christ’s body to work for justice.

Although we may have different opinions about various issues, we are all called to the table to be one with the Body of Christ. This is our invitation from the Church—to be disciples of Christ. Diversity should not divide us, as it helps broaden our perspective on the life journey of many people. It is our mission, as Christ’s disciples, to accompany each other inside the Church walls, as well as outside the walls of our Church. However, our unity is on shaky ground these days as we seem to be dividing Christ’s Body.

“Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus said to the people.

Therefore, how may we re-imagine Church and go forth as a unified body of Christ by truly listening and hearing? How do your eyes, ears, voice, hands, and feet fulfill the teachings of Jesus? Jesus needs us to be his eyes, ears, voice, hands, and feet so we can be active in the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy. Let us re-commit to being a people of God who welcome those who listen, speak, and act in truth with merciful love.

Remember, Anything is possible with God!

— Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate