I am taking Christology at the Angelicum this semester. Right now we are reading Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. One passage struck me as one of the most amazing texts I have had the privilege of seeing in a long time.
ST III. 8.3: Whether Christ is the head of all men?
Thomas is asking whether Christ is the head of the Church or all human beings. The objection runs that he is the head of the Church but not those outside of the Church, since they are not under his influence or sphere of influence. The unbaptized, for example, are not members of the body of Christ, and if Christ is the head of this body, how could they be related to them as having him as their head? And how could those who are baptized but living in sin, apart from the Church, have Christ as their head?
Personally this makes sense to me. Haven’t some people removed themselves from Christ, explicitly expressing the wish that they not be under Christ’s rule or headship?
But Aquinas answers: Christ is the head of all human beings, for as Scripture says, he came to propitiate for our sins, and the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Thomas says to consider all human beings as potential members of the mystical body of Christ. Some are members now, some will be in the future; some never will be. Still, Christ came to be the head of all of them. Even those who will never be joined to Christ, Christ came for them. Hence, Aquinas says, Christ is the head of all human beings but diversely. He is the head of those who live in faith and love in a special way, but nevertheless of all people.
This is a very powerful text. Sometimes we lose hope for people. Sometimes we lose compassion for people who reject God with such vigor. But Aquinas reminds us: all people belong to him. And so all people ought to belong to each of us as well.