Editorial: Behold the body

As summer begins and so many people take their vacations, it isn’t unusual in the course of travels to find oneself driving past an unfamiliar parish in some corner of the country far from home. What might be a little more unusual, especially with jam-packed travel itineraries, is actually stopping in at such a parish to “say hi to Jesus.”

The odds are helped, however, by growth in the practice of Eucharistic adoration in U.S. parishes — over 7,000 as reported in this issue of OSV Newsweekly — a practice Pope St. John Paul II encouraged in his final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharista. “It is the responsibility of pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species,” he wrote. It’s a practice particularly worth recalling as the Church prepares to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi on June 15. Whether one is on vacation or at home, this practice — focused on the source and summit of the Christian life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1324) — can provide profound spiritual nourishment, strength and peace. And beholding the body of Christ is especially important when world events remind us that Jesus was incarnated into the world in all its suffering.

The shooting deaths of nearly 30 Coptic Christians in a May 26 bus attack in Egypt is an event that should stop all Christians in their tracks and call us to prayer, not only for the souls of the dead and their loved ones, but also in recognition of the pain that this violence inflicts on the entire Body of Christ. As Pope Francis has said, “Sometimes in our lives, the glasses we need to see Jesus are tears.”

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In this sense, the public outpouring of grief witnessed after the May 22 suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, England, is a manifestation of the suffering Body of Christ. And that is inherently evangelizing.

In his 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, John Paul II wrote:

“When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a ‘virtue,’ is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

For an example of this, Christians can look to the two men who were stabbed to death May 26 on a Portland, Oregon, commuter train after intervening for two women, one wearing a hijab, who’d been the target of a man shouting anti-Muslim epithets. That is what it looks like when people recognize others as fellow members of the Body of Christ.

Whether or not we’re called to lay down our lives, we can still pray to grow in the depth of our love and devotion for our fellow members of the Body of Christ. Whether on vacation, at work or living under persecution and the threat of martyrdom, we can all draw strength from continually contemplating the source and summit of our faith in the Eucharist.

Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor