Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We, Though Many, Are One Body In Christ.

First Reading
Romans 12:5-16

Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.


Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 131

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

O Israel, hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.


Luke 14:15-24

One of those at table with Jesus said to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.” He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.’ The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

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Today we begin a series of readings from the last third of Paul’s letter to the Romans. If we are to understand God’s word for us in these readings, it will be helpful to know the context. Paul has just finished a comprehensive summary of what God has done for us in salvation history, leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and highlighting, for example in Chapter 6, our rebirth to new life in Christ after our dying with Him in our baptism. Paul begins this last third of his letter with the key word “therefore”. Because of the incredible salvation God has wrought for us, we therefore ought . . . Our readings these next few days will be devoted to a description of how we ought to be manifesting this new life we’ve been given. But it’s not just a list of things we must do. It is instead an expression of who and what we are. As today’s reading begins, “. . . we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” “Are” not “should become”.

It is extremely difficult for us, embedded in an individualistic culture, really to grasp what that means. It most certainly does not mean that we are members of the same team and therefore we should play together. It does not mean that we are members of the same political party and therefore should give priority to the party’s program. It doesn’t mean anything like that. In our culture we can drop off the team or change parties. Not so for who we are after our baptisms. Our old selves are dead. We cannot go back. Our life is Christ’s life; we are Christ in our world – not as metaphor but as reality.

Paul compares us to parts of the body – the body of Christ – with eyes and liver and heart all working toward the wellness of the whole organism. But once again, it’s not just a figure of speech. It is part of the vocation of all Christians to act for the good of the whole. Such action is characterized by the virtues, the behaviors, that Paul mentions – behaviors that work their way into every sphere of our lives.

For the past several months the United States has been involved in acrimonious debate over healthcare reform. Many approaches could be taken, some likely to work better than others. I do not here advocate for any particular solution, but I ask myself what does this last third of Romans tell us about this issue? Clearly it tells us: “. . . we are all members of one another.” Any reform we undertake must embody that principle. Remember the letter of St. James that we heard on the Sundays of this past September. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in need of daily food, and one of you says ‘Go in peace. Be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? That faith is dead” (James 2:13–17). Do the poor and immigrant deserve health care? Wrong question! Instead: Do they need it?

God has chosen to work through humans and if we humans withhold what our brothers and sisters need, then we block God’s forgiving love from operating in our world. We should make no mistake about that. We have that fearful power. Additionally, when we refuse to help one another we ourselves suffer; we ourselves are ill and crippled. A sick heart or liver makes our whole body sick. “We are all members of one another.”

Robert P. Heaney, M.D.
John A. Creighton Professor of Medicine
Creighton University
Online Ministries

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