Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you…” These words in this one sentence, though simple, speak profoundly about who we are to become as Christians, as Catholics. This sentence points to the greatest theological virtue: caritas, also known as charity or love.
The theological virtue of charity is the principle backbone of Catholic Social Teaching. Without love, there is no true justice. Without love, there is nothing holding together who we are and what we do. Love is everything! This body we profess in the liturgy is Christ’s body. It is the body of Love incarnate, which we are to become. The liturgical action of the Eucharist is two fold. It is the celebration of the Eucharist which draws us together, united in one heart and mind and gathered to hear His Word. Secondly, in partaking of the Eucharist, we grow more in union with His Body--His Mystical Body. This is the Mystical Body which is beyond time and space, nationality, race, etc… As St. Paul says, we are "One Body.”
If we are this Body, a Body in which there is no Jew, Greek, slave or free, what does this mean for us as Christians, and how do we respond? The answer is found within Catholic Social Teaching: solidarity. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. There is thus a bond of unity among all people at a fundamental level. However, sin distorts this relationship into something which God never intended it to be. This image and likeness of God, though unmistakably true and present, is obscured because of sin. It is Christ however who restores this image of God through grace. This is especially true in the Eucharistic Celebration. “O Lord, I’m not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Who alone could heal us but Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, who is the source of all things and the summit of our life, strengthens in us what is in need of healing and opens the path to reconciliation and corporate unity. By his suffering, death, and resurrection, we are made a new creation in baptism.
If indeed we are made new because of Christ, we belong to no-one, no thing, no principle, no ideology; we belong only to Christ and His Body no longer enslaved to sin and division. This is solidarity at its heart. If this is so, how are we to respond to such a great gift? By making His Body, which is also the Kingdom of God, alive and present on this Earth.
Lent is here, and the CRS Rice Bowls are coming out. Lent is specifically a liturgical season the Church gives us so that we may turn from our imperfect ways to the Lord. This spiritual journey to the Lord is a time when we grow away from attachments to things that keep us from the Lord, through activity or self-denial which increases virtue in the soul. As we grow in virtue, we begin to realize more fully that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This Word is Christ, the true Bread of Life. When we join in solidarity with the homeless, the poor, the forgotten, the mentally ill, and those who are alone, we are fed by Christ present in each person and we honor Him. In that moment of solidarity we are in his presence. Christ himself adds:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt 25)
This Lent there are many ways in which we can be fed by the Lord. CRS Rice Bowl is one way to grow in solidarity with the poor as the Body of Christ. On the CRS Rice Bowl website you can find prayer resources including traditional Catholic devotions, such as Stations of the Cross, but which aim at providing a deeper global awareness of the needs and injustices of the world around us and for us to grow in solidarity with them. There are also recipes you can try from other countries. Perhaps one night you can have a simple meal with one of these recipes. There is also a CRS Rice Bowl app, which will show you how much you can contribute by not buying your next Starbucks coffee. The app also has daily readings and devotions. Aside from CRS Rice Bowl, get involved in your city. Go to the soup kitchen or homeless shelter and make Christ known there. As the Prophet Isaiah states, “Is it not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?” (Isa 58) Thus will the caritas present in the Body of Christ serve to unite all mankind.