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Monday, September 17, 2012

One body, Many parts

Today Franciscans celebrate the Stigmata of St. Francis, a feast that reminds them not to be afraid of the Cross. 

"Now the body is not a single part, but many." 1 Cor 12:14

Just as we are beginning to think the scandalous behavior of the Christian community in Corinth will be its undoing, Paul reminds us that all is not lost. As long the body of Christ works towards unity, and the many parts of the body contribute to the whole, the church can be healthy despite its differences and sinful behavior.

What a rich image this is for the 21st century church in the United States. Though believers on both ends of the Catholic spectrum would want us to believe that there is only one way to be Catholic, Paul's metaphor challenges all univocal interpretations of the Gospel. When each part of the body, no matter how different or odd, contributes to the health of the body, the unity, not the uniformity of the church, is preserved.

Paul's principle is especially obvious in the developing world. When exorbitant wealth makes it impossible for the poor to live with dignity, the church must work for a systemic answer. Wealth in itself is not the issue, the hoarding of resources is. When any member of the society cannot live an integrated human life, the society itself is sick, and the church must speak and act on behalf of the poor because the essential unity and health of the body is threatened.

Today, ask yourself whether your values and lifestyle help others.

When has the church best expressed its unity despite its radical diversity?

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