Father Terry writes:
Ask yourself: why did St Paul tell the people of Corinth to remember the body, and the dependence of the parts on each other? The answer is that they were a quarrelsome people. They had factions, with leaders, and the different factions tended to stress their own point of view, their own interests, and to try to dominate the others. It made for tension and unhappiness. Hence his reminder: we need each other. But they sometimes forgot this, as we all do, 2000 years later.
It’s a reminder first of all about humility. We might think of ourselves as people who make decisions, who stride through life, who achieve great things. Well, perhaps we do. Even the most ordinary person likes to have achievements. But everything we achieve in fact will have depended on other people making things possible for us. Your parents made sacrifices for your education. Or a teacher noticed your potential. Or an employer decided to take a chance on you. Or a friend recommended you. And this is something that continues every day. We need others, we depend on them.
Second, when Paul writes about us being one body, it is a reminder about that dull thing that we call duty. Duty calls. You have to change that nappy. You have to cook that meal. You have to mark those exercise books. You have to visit that sick person. You have to listen to that person even although you are tired. The different parts of the body have to function, because without them playing their part, the rest would be harmed. And, let’s be honest, sometimes we do our duty with gritted teeth, or wishing we were somewhere else. But I want to say to you, this does not take away the honour of what we do. It does not remove its worth. Sometimes a sense of responsibility means that you do what is expected of you, and everyone else gains. Spirituality is a wonderful word, but without our sense of duty, we would have no spirituality at all. If you do things because it is your duty then it shows that your conscience is alive and active.
Third, the analogy of the body makes us think about the common good. A body has to have nourishment and warmth. It is better if there is exercise – and rest. St Paul’s letter that we heard today invites us to think about what would make the body of the community stronger and healthier. Not just our church community, important thought it is, but also our neighbourhood, our local community, our borough, our city, our country, and beyond that, humanity itself. If we all belong together – if my good is inseparable from the good of everybody else – then what do we need to be doing to protect and improve the health of the whole body? Where are people hungry – hungry for food, for dignity, for education? Where do they thirst for fairness and a chance at improving their life? Where is there need for rest, for recreation, for music and laughter and all the things that build up the spirit? St Paul challenges us to all these things, as does Jesus in the gospel. When Jesus says that he has been sent to cheer the hearts of the poor, bring freedom, to bring insight and freedom, he is speaking to us. He brings us good cheer, he sets us free and enlarges our vision. Then he says to us: go to others and do likewise.