Sunday, January 24, 2010


If one part suffers (talking about the body of Christ), all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Usually when I am compelled to write here it is because something I have read, or heard has jolted me.

The above line from 1 Corinthians jolted me last night at mass, as did this part of the Gospel (Luke 4: 17-21)

"He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” .

We had a visiting Priest last night, and he was with Food For The Poor ( As he said, he was there to beg on behalf of the world's poor children.

The readings were not picked to coincide with his visit (he goes to a different church every week and has to preach whatever the weekly lectionary says), the reading was part of the normal weekly lectionary.

His stories were obviously calculated to tug at the heart and purse strings, which they should have, and, in fact, they did.

For example, he told of a Jamaican mother whose 3 year old died of diarrhea from a water borne disease. The baby couldn't be saved because she couldn't afford a $3.00 jug of pedialyte.

Food For the Poor's area of operation is the Caribbean basin. Obviously the place in the news most lately is in that area - Haiti.

As Father Greg pointed out, Haiti was desperately poor BEFORE the earthquake. He said that 1 out of every 5 children there die of hunger and other things. 1 out of every 5. That should shock us, but I think a lot of times there is so much pain and suffering in the world it does not.

Which brings me to what unsettled me about 1 Corinthians 12:26.

First, it should be said that the response to the earthquake in Haiti has been generous. People have been giving their time and money in large amounts, and that's to be commended.

But, how do we account for a lot of the inaction on the continual misery and suffering prior to January 12th, the day the earthquake happened?

I'm not saying that I'm any better or any worse than anyone else at grasping this or doing anything about it, it just disturbs me. The passage is very clear - If ONE part suffers ALL the parts suffer with it.

That is so impossibly deep and heavy, I can't even start to get my mind around it. I think a lot of the time when a lot of us Christians think about "the Body of Christ", we are thinking about our own local churches, or the people that we know and deal with in our churches on a weekly basis.

But, I don't think that's what this is talking about. I think it literally tells us that if one part suffers, we all should be suffering. A long time ago, when people were insulated, and were not exposed to a large part of the rest of the world, this was probably a little easier.

But, now, we can see the horror from Port Au Prince and other places. What excuse do we have of not knowing of the suffering of our brothers and sisters all over the world?

Stories have been told recently about Christians in Haiti doing the best that they can (in some cases sharing their meager possessions) for their fellow countrymen.

To me, this is humbling and very unsettling.

One point to continually ponder - what does it mean to "suffer" with all the parts of the body of Christ?

How deep are we supposed to go in that suffering? A few, like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day were called to go all the way. Leaving all they had behind and going to live day to day, year after year with the poor.

But, for the rest of us, how deep are we supposed to go? That is a question that has disturbed me, and a question that will continue to disturb me.