In these last days, Christ is always with us. He promised to remain with us when He mysteriously ascended into heaven. For us, He let His adorable body be broken on earth and His precious blood be spilt. In the breaking of the bread we recognize Him; in the transformation of the bread He comes among us bodily. In the mass, we are brought into the presence of that sacrifice so that we may bodily partake of what Christ bodily gives: His own body into ours.
But when we consummate the Eucharist, when we communicate with our Lord, His body mysteriously disappears and our bodies remain. He is present to our sight only briefly, and to touch only a little longer, but then He is gone, although His presence remains. In what way, therefore, does His presence remain with us if our bodies are not destroyed, but His body disappears?
Jesus said, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” (RSV Jn 6:55). If His flesh is true food and His blood true drink, then they will do what base food and drink do, that is, they will nourish the life of the person, but in a superabundant way. Jesus’ flesh and blood are spiritual food, not only physical food. True life comes from the spirit, not from the body, as can be easily seen from the fact that we maintain our lives through our bodies, but the principle of life is not bodily. Therefore, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). So Jesus’ body is true food and His blood true drink not because they feed our bodies, through which we merely maintain our lives, but because they feed our souls, which are the very principles of our lives. When we eat His bread and drink His blood, we become united with His life, and therefore live more fully than we did before.
Therefore, Jesus remains present with us through the Eucharist in this way: when He unites the principles of our lives with His life in a most intimate, loving communion, then He is truly present in our souls as their very life. (Notice also that, insofar as the principle of Jesus’ life is the Father, the Father is brought to live in our souls through the Eucharist.) Through the Eucharist, then, God is made more intimate to us even than our souls.
What does this have to do with kindness, or, for that matter, with the cross? Is not the celebration of the cross rather backwards looking? Why should the cross be the central meditation of all the faithful if Christ lives in me through Holy Communion?
The essential thing is to notice that human life exists through the soul but is always instantiated or made present through the body. If therefore, we participate in the life of Christ through the reception of His body and blood, then by His presence in our souls even our bodies make Him present. We become transfigured in this way, that we make Christ present physically by receiving Him in a permanent physical way. His life lives in our souls, but our souls live in our bodies. Therefore communion with Christ is not a distant thing at all: our very bodies become the immediate instruments of His presence to each other and to the world. Jesus was present to people with His body while on earth, but did He not also send out His disciples to be His hands and His feet? It would be very interesting to study the use of the word “hands” with Jesus in this sense through the gospels while meditating on the body as the instrument of spiritual presence. For Jesus healed many people through His hands, He offered His life to the Father saying, “Father, into your hands” (Lk 23:46). and He commanded doubting Thomas, saying, “Put your finger here, and see my hands” (Jn 20:27).
Truly, then, the members of the Church are the very body of Christ. As His members, they are both instruments of His presence and instruments of His works: by the spirit of their bodies they make Christ present, and by their bodies they do His work. When we look on the cross and meditate on His emaciated body, we ought to see the body that we are called to be, inasmuch as the life of the resurrected Christ is the life that we truly have. And it seems to me, at least, as I am thinking about such life, that kindness is the bodily form of the love Christ demonstrated for us. We eat His body as He asks us to do; His life dwells in us, becoming the spiritual nourishment of our souls and so the principle of their lives in a real and intimate way; since our bodies are vivified by souls now bearing the presence of Christ, our bodies also become vessels of His presence. What is left but to conclude that we must use even our bodies to love each other, even in the littlest of ways? For every way that we can give our presence to each other is now, through Christ, a way to make God Himself present. This can be drastic or minute. The minute ways are far more difficult for me at least, since there are so many opportunities to love people in little ways, each coming and going very quickly. Often it can be as little as some brief attention, or a kind face while listening, or walking with someone a little further than you needed to go. At any rate, our daily crosses become easier to bear when we consider that we give Christ a chance to love others through us when we lend Him our bodies as vessels of His crucified presence. If we are His body, our crosses become His. How much easier, how much more fruitful our little crosses become, when in our bodies they are borne with us by the Son of God!