About 25 years or so after Christ’s resurrection, St Paul wrote two Letters or Epistles to the Christian community in Corinth, which he had founded. In the passage we are reading today, he tackles the problem of divisions that arose there after he left Corinth to found communities elsewhere.     

He appeals for unity by comparing the Christian community there with a human body. He argues that for a physical body to be alive and well, all its various parts – limbs, organs etc – must work together. It’s the same, he says, with a church community – its many and varied members must work together if that community is to be effective.

Paul’s analogy can easily apply to a family or other community life – if one member is not playing his/her part for the common good of the whole family, then the family or community has problems that causes all members to suffer. So Paul says that if people in Corinth don’t set their differences aside and pull together, then their community ceases to be effective as what he calls the ‘Body of Christ’.

For Paul, a Christian community, like us here at Holy Name, is called to be the active presence of Jesus in its particular location. For each parish, he says, is a part or member of the universal Body of Christ on earth. Therefore, its effectiveness depends on its members working together, just like parts of our bodies work together for our good. So each person, each parish and the Church as a whole must work together for the common goal of what Jesus set before us when he announced his mission in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:14-21). Of all the texts available to him in the Bible, this is the one he chose:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

By choosing this text, the Church teaches that Jesus was expressing what it calls a ‘preferential option for the poor’. He would move not among the celebrities or exalted figures of his time but be in solidarity with the poor, the marginalised, the sick and the victims of injustice.  The worldwide Church, under the guidance of Pope Francis, has the Christ-given duty to embrace his manifesto. Each parish component of that Body must play its part and in such a parish all members are called to contribute – as best we can – to making this possible.

Now, with the promising news about Omicron, can we dare to begin thinking ahead to future community activities as the Body of Christ? As we take tentative steps out of the pandemic, how might we renew our communal efforts to serve Christ’s mission to the poor, the sick and the marginalised?

I appreciate that there are many who’d like to return to Sunday Mass and socially meeting fellow parishioners once more but feel it’s not safe to do so yet. God willing that safer time will come soon and we can come together once more. But in the meantime, they need to know they are still full members of our Church and play their part in the Body of Christ when simply praying at home or taking part in Mass via the livestream. Whether they are part of the congregation that meets in church or our wider virtual community where people worship from home, all belong to this Body of Christ.

One of our personal duties as members of this Body is to have a concern and care for each other, not least when one of our members is ill. When one part or member of our community suffers, we all should be concerned. As the three musketeers would say: we are all for one and one for all. So if you are suffering in any way or know someone dear to you who is not well, please let me know so that our community can support that person in prayer. Caring for and praying for the sick is one way we actively participate in Jesus’ mission.

Finally, if you are unable to come to church or take part in future parish events, your continued support of this community – spiritually and financially – is important. In the Body of Christ – whatever one’s level of commitment or activity, physical or virtual – everybody matters. Nobody is rubbish. All are welcome to play a part according to their circumstances.

Michael Campion
Holy Name, Jesmond
23 January 2022

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