The Church is the mystical body of Christ. How unimaginably great an honor this is can be lost at times to those of us who have become accustomed to the saying. By our baptism, we are born into the body of Christ who is God bodily, the Word of God made Flesh. By the continued gift of Eucharistic communion, that body which is Christ’s nurtures us, her many members. She feeds us divine food so that we may continuously grow in that life by which the Church lives. We become through the Eucharist as intimately united with Christ as our souls are to our bodies, since He becomes the life of our life. And if we give away our lives for His sake, then His life will wholly become ours, since we will have no life besides Him.
This was about as far as the first part of this meditation went. Some questions remain, however—most notably, two. First, how is the Cross like kindness? Second, how is kindness like the Cross?
The first of these questions seems to me to be a little easier to deal with, so I will take it up first. The obvious answer to the question is that Jesus died for the sake of all people, so that everyone could be saved from their sins. If it is kind to do something good for someone else, then this was good. If it is kind to lose something for the sake of another. If it is kind to lose one’s own life for the sake of another, then truly as Jesus said, there is no greater love than this. Therefore, insofar as our Lord suffered the Cross and all its horrible pains out of love for us, because it would do us a great good, it must be the kindest thing anyone has ever done or will ever do.
The second question is a little trickier: how is kindness like the Cross? It is tempting to answer this question by saying that kindness is like the Cross whenever someone gives of himself for the sake of another out of love. In other words, someone might say that whenever the act of a particular kindness is like the act of the Cross, in that circumstance kindness was like the Cross. Jack gives away his coat to someone else who is very cold; Jesus gave away His life so that others who were dying could live; therefore Jack’s kindness was like Christ. But this does not actually hold up. For the Cross is not really like kindness: it is kindness. Jesus’ death is as kind as anything ever could be, both because of the greatness of the gift (i.e., the life of God Himself) and the love of the giver (i.e., also God Himself). So if we compare kindness with the Cross, we are really comparing kindness with kindness.
What then? How are we to solve the riddle? Surely it is true that when Jack gives away his coat he is imitating Christ. Jack at that moment is one of those to whom Christ will say, “When I was naked, you clothed me.” That is, when Jack does something kind, his kindness immediately has reference to Christ. How? Well, probably in two ways. As Jesus said, all kindness is necessarily directed toward Him: He receives our kindness no less than our neighbors receive our kindness. But in another way, our kindness seems to be directed through Jesus. Because we are baptized into His life through His death, our crosses are bound to His great cross. Not only does He bear our crosses with us, then, but our crosses become powerful to help remit sins. He empowered our suffering to work for the good of all people in a real, spiritually effective way by inviting us into His own suffering. I have not thought about this as much as I should be, considering it is November, the month of the dead. I heard a priest preach at the beginning of this month that by praying for the faithful in Purgatory to ease their passing into perfect happiness we have the opportunity to win for ourselves countless friends and powerful intercessors. When I heard this, sitting in the pew, my first thought was one of proud repulsion. Why should I seek out friends for my own gain? I am not so self-serving. I would never make a friend only considering what they would do for me. Can you believe that I thought this? Or can you believe that not long afterward I received our Lord into my own body, who lived and died so that He could truly call us His friends? Truly I can believe that at that mass He suffered the indignity of my pride so that I might become closer to Him eventually. Let us imitate our Lord by uniting ourselves to His suffering so that our littlest kindnesses may become little crosses, effective through Christ to help save our friends.