The second reading on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues our reading of the latter part of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?
Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’
What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.
Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
This Sunday falls within the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a week that reminds again of how even within the community of the Baptised there is a tendency to undermine the unity that is ours as children of God. We are to deeper unity with him and with one another, but so often that gift is squandered in squabbling and mistrust and suspicion and prejudice.
- With what part of your body do you least associate?
- With which do you most associate your ‘self’?
- With whom in our world do you least think of yourself having something in common?
- With whom most in common?
What can you bring from those reflections to prayer?
Alison Lapper Pregnant, a carving by Marc Quinn. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris