Have you noticed the detail in the account of the conversion of St Paul? When the risen Lord appears he says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He doesn’t says, “Why are you persecuting my disciples” or “Why are you persecuting my friends or my brothers or those who believe in me,” but “Why are you persecuting me.”

Thus, straight from the lips of the risen Lord the truth that the apostolic church and he are one and the same. The church is the Body of Christ. Where the Church is, there is Christ. The ramifications of this are profound. If the Church is Christ, then when we leave the church, we leave Christ. When we are in schism from the church we are in schism from Christ. When we dissent from the teaching of the Church we dissent from Christ. When we disobey and run far away from the church we disobey and run far away from Christ.

This profound link between Christ and his church which Paul experiences at his conversion stays with him throughout his ministry so that he equates the Body of Christ with the Church and understands the organic and mysterious unity between the Church and the wholeness of Christ.

As a Catholic this mystical body of Christ means more and more to me. As a priest, within the celebration of Mass, and in the recitation of the divine office I feel a unity with the whole Church and with the whole Christ in a deeper and more profound way than I can explain. Somehow there my own life and my desires and my destiny are caught up in something greater and more eternal. It is as if my own voice is joined in a great and multitudinous choir. My own voice insignificant and yet important, caught up in a harmony and magnificence that magnifies my small voice and joins it with the singing of the ages.