In today's reading from 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to underscore the fundamental dynamics of the Body of Christ of which we are constitutive members. The human body has diverse members, each of which is important to the health of the body and no one of which is more important or more valuable than another. The individual part or member is not as important as the whole. In fact, the importance or value of each member arises from the whole not the part.
While there are differences in the charisms or gifts of each member, it is the whole which is Christ present in the world. As might be expected from a man formed by the culture of his age, Paul arranges the various gifts in a hierarchy beginning with the apostles and descending through prophets, teachers, administrators, speakers of different languages. Each derives its value not from its rank but from its service to the whole. Each is essential and no one rank can stand for the whole. Christ cannot be divided just as a body cannot be and still live.
These thoughts had special relevance for me as I reflected on a grand celebration this past weekend of the various jubilees of our bishop--birthday (75), ordination (50), and time as bishop here (33). He is an extraordinary human being whom I count as a friend and fellow pilgrim. I am not alone since this is how he presents himself and actually is the way he is. And yet he is a loyal member of a special class of members in the church. While he did not intend it, it is always true that the media is the message as McLuhan observed. Here the message was that the real church or at least the church for which this celebration took place is the men in robes and these men in robes looked and acted for all the world like a medieval royal court: They were ranked by orders and processed in with pomp and circumstance with the king(s) at the end of the procession.
We were the audience, the crowd that attended on this spectacle but were truly not a part of it. No matter what the individual intentions were and no matter what the ecclesiology might have been, a part of the body had assumed a position of importance at variance with Paul's insight.
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