Hello, my name is Bob More, and I’m the Chairperson of Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore, which is the regional affiliate of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. (“Pax Christi” is Latin for “the peace of Christ.”) We are honored to be partners with TASSC in the vital work of abolishing torture and holding accountable those who authorize it. We bring greetings of peace and solidarity to TASSC members and supporters as you conclude your annual Torture Survivors Week with this vigil in Lafayette Park.
Two weeks ago, Catholic Christians around the world celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, which is Latin for “the body of Christ.” Corpus Christi holds great significance for us as Christians, on three main levels.
First is Christ’s physical body, with which he loved, taught, and blessed all those he met during his ministry on earth 2,000 years ago. To be touched by him was to be healed in body and spirit. Yet at the end, his body was seized by soldiers; he was bound and taken to their torture chamber, where he was stripped and viciously scourged. The whip the Romans used for scourging had metal and bone fragments in its lashes to tear the flesh, inflicting searing pain and causing significant loss of blood. After that, a crown of thorns was placed on his head, as the soldiers mocked him and struck him on the head. Then they led him outside the city walls and crucified him, driving nails through his wrists and feet and hanging him upright to slowly suffocate to death in agony. The holy body of Christ, abused, bloodied, broken.
Yet we believe that God did not allow his mortal body to undergo the corruption of the grave, but raised him from the dead, giving him a glorified, incorruptible body. So the first Corpus Christi is his physical body.
Second is the Church, which St. Paul refers to metaphorically as the Body of Christ. Through baptism, St. Paul says, we become members of one body, with Christ as its head. Just as the body has many parts, so we are many members but form one body. And when one member of the body suffers, all members suffer, for we are joined together in one body. So the second Corpus Christi is the community he founded.
Third, in our communion service at Mass, we receive the spiritual body and blood of Christ. We commemorate his last supper, in which he gave us this sign of his love; and we believe he is truly present to us under the forms of bread and wine. In Holy Communion, he gives us spiritual food to nourish and sustain us for the work of building up his Body, the Church. So this sacrament of bread and wine that become for us the body and blood of Christ is the third Corpus Christi.
In his risen, glorified body, Christ sends us the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and purifies us, making our own bodies temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says.
So our bodies are sacred, to be used to love, teach, heal, and bless, as Christ did. It is therefore a grave offense for anyone to abuse, violate, torture the body of another, which was made for wholeness and holiness. It is a grave offense against that person’s body, but also against the whole Body of Christ, of which we are members. For when one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.
May God continue to bless you and your noble work.