The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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OK, admit it. When you come to mass and you see that there’s a choice between a long reading and a short reading, you hope that we use the short one. Even though the longer reading may only take a minute more to read, there’s just something about the shorter one that makes you feel just a little better. So, I picked the shorter second reading today, just for you. The bad news is that I want to talk about the part that we didn’t read, so I’m going to have to give you the Reader’s Digest version.

Paul’s point in this particular passage is that we’re all part of one body, the Church. The part we left out is where he talks about the various parts of the body and how they all have to work together. “If a foot should say ‘Because I’m not a hand I don’t belong to the body’, that doesn’t make it any less a part of the body.” He goes on to talk about some other body parts including some that seem to be weaker and some parts that we consider less honorable, and some parts that are less presentable, that we usually cover up. At least we covered them up in Paul’s day. Today, sometimes not so much.

The thing is that when we talk about the “Body of Christ”, we’re talking about His Church. And if the Church is a body, then you and I must be parts of that body. And it takes all the parts to make the body work the way it’s supposed to. It goes without saying that Jesus is the head. He’s also the heart. We may think of ourselves as the eyes and ears of the Church. Some may think they’re the mouth. We know that some of us are the hands, but some of us are also the feet. The thing is that none of us, you and me, are more important than anyone else.

This little book is called the Ordo. The Ordo lists the readings for every day’s mass and Liturgy of the Hours. It gives a short, very short, summary of the day’s mass readings, what the color is for the day, and a lot of other stuff. On the other side, it lists all the bishops, priests, and deacons in the Archdiocese who have been called home along with the date of their death. Page after page of men who had received the sacrament of Holy Orders, who had been chosen to serve the Church in a leadership role, but in the end they’re just names in a book. Whether they were a Cardinal or a deacon, whether they served fifty years or fifty days, every listing is exactly the same.

Why do we need such a list? Because death doesn’t break up a family. Uncle Bob is still Uncle Bob, even when he leaves this world. The listing in the Ordo reminds us of our clergy who have gone on. It reminds us to pray for them, just like they’re praying for us. When we pass into the next life, all of us will have our names written in the Book of Life for our parish, which we bring out and display every November. It’s another reminder that we’re all part of the same body.

So, what’s it all mean? Remember I said a couple of weeks ago that we’re all baptized in the same water that Jesus was baptized in? It’s that common baptism, along with our sharing in the bread and wine, transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Lord’s table that unites all of us. You and I are just as connected to a Catholic on the other side of the world as we are to the person sitting next to us. When one of us is cut, we all bleed. That’s just the way it is. That’s why we respond so generously when someone is in need. That’s why Catholic Charities is collecting millions of dollars to help the people of Haiti. They’re our brothers and sisters.

What Jesus is telling us today, through the words of Saint Paul, is that we share a common bond that’s not just of this world, not just for a short time, but for all eternity.

Yesterday (Friday) was the anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the case of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. It’s an annual reminder of the millions of unborn children who have been murdered in the United States over the last thirty seven years. Roughly 1.4 million unborn babies are killed each year, just in the United States. We tend to think of abortion as an American problem, but there are at least 15 million abortions each year world wide, probably more than that.

The world was outraged, and still is outraged, over the death of six million Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis in World War II. We call it the holocaust. In the early 1930s, between three and ten million Ukranians were starved to death by Joseph Stalin. There was plenty of food available, but the Communist government was exporting it to pay their bills, leaving the people who grew the food to die of starvation. The British did something similar to the Irish in the 1840s. There aren’t very good records of births and deaths during that time, but the best guess is that a million to a million and a half Irish lost their lives. Another million uprooted their families and moved away.

During the 1960s and ’70s, something like a million and a half Chinese were killed by Mao Tse Dung’s troops during the so-called Cultural Revolution. As tragic as these four events were, all four together resulted in about the same number of deaths that take place in just one year on the abortionists’ tables worldwide. Even the most pessimistic estimates of the death toll in Haiti amounts to just a few days work for the abortionists.

Why do we care about any of this? I think you know why. We are followers of Christ and we are all one body. Each of us loses a little bit whenever one of us dies. Whether it’s a Jew executed by the Nazis, a family crushed by a falling building in Haiti, or an innocent life snuffed out by an abortion half way around the world.

Nazi Germany is long gone. The atrocities in the Ukraine happened eighty years ago. There’s nothing we can do about that. There’s also nothing we can do to prevent an earthquake. All we can do is support the victims with our money and our prayers. But we have to take a stand for all human life, right here and right now. As Catholics and as citizens of the greatest country in the world, we owe it to our brothers and sisters, our fellow body parts, to do all we can to protect their lives. None of us would just sit calmly while someone tried to cut off our leg. How can we ignore it when someone destroys a part of the Body of Christ?

There are still atrocities being committed by despotic governments all over the world. People are being killed for daring to challenge their governments. There are still wars being fought, two of them involving the United States. There are people getting on airplanes with bombs in their underpants, hoping to kill Americans and others, along with themselves. People are starving all over the world, including right here in the United States, even here in Saint Louis. And the abortions go on and on.

You and I don’t have the time, the talent, or the treasure to fix everything that’s wrong with the world. We all do the best we can with what we have. Most of us aren’t going to get on a plane and fly to Haiti, even if we’d like too. Most of us aren’t going to go to Washington DC to join the pro-life march. We won’t even protest at the local abortion clinic. We don’t have the time, or it’s just not our style.

But we do have time to pray. And we should pray, and pray hard, every day for all human life. We should flood heaven with our prayers for every one of our fellow human beings. That’s a lot to pray for, but God will hear us, and He will answer us. We just can’t let up because we ARE one body.

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