A Church of all nations

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Not long ago, at dinner in my community in Rome, which houses Jesuits from maybe 30 different countries, one of my brothers from Columbia was talking with one of my brothers from Poland about the different things people eat around the world, and he mentioned hearing that in parts of Asia people eat dog meat.  And another of my brothers from the Philippines, who is normally very quiet, looked up from his plate and said, “Oh, yes, very good,” and then he went on with his meal.  

Altar of St. Francis Xavier, Gesù Church, Rome

There is no more diverse an organization in the world than the Catholic Church.  Not only do Catholics come from different countries and races and language groups, but the Church includes saints of different historical periods, the great cloud of witnesses mentioned by the letter to the Hebrews last week.  The martyrs of first century Rome, of seventeenth century Japan, of 20th century Spain and Mexico, and, in our still-young century, of Turkey, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, France and elsewhere could not have been more different culturally or socially, yet they all shared a belief in Catholicism so strong they were willing to die for it.  People have indeed come, as the Lord says, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south to the table in the kingdom of God, around which we gather this morning.

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One Body, many witnesses

In today’s second reading, St. Paul warns us of autoimmune disease.  An autoimmune disease, as you may know, is when the body attacks itself, one of its own parts.  It’s a self-destructive disease.  Last week we heard Paul tell the Corinthians, who had been squabbling over who had the better gifts, that all these different gifts come from one Spirit.  One Spirit, many gifts. 

Today Paul continues the same theme with the analogy of the body.  The Church is like a body, with different parts—eyes and ears and limbs and so on—and if jealousy between these parts enters in and the eye stops seeing because it wants to hear, and the legs stop walking because they want to see, and the lungs stop breathing because they want to walk, then pretty soon instead of a body you have a corpse.  It is one of the most important metaphors in the Bible, and this morning I’d like to focus on two implications of this metaphor.  The first is that bodies share common goods.  And the second is that the Body of Christ is meant to be alive.  

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