The Mission of the Body of Christ
By Father Pete Iorio
One of my teachers at a Catholic high school humbly admitted that he is not very sensate. He misses some of the details right in front of his face. However, he was a great teacher and very intuitive. I was also aware of that he, by his own admission, did not like and avoided conflicts.
I am reminded of that because of the second reading from Paul about members of the church having different gifts. As I became an adult and now a priest and pastor, I am aware of some gifts that I have been given naturally. They come easily to me. I am aware of some gifts that I have wanted to have and put effort into developing those gifts. I am also aware that there are gifts, sometimes necessary for my ministry, that I lack. For that reason, I greatly appreciate those people who have gifts that I do not and use them to serve the greater good.
I believe that in order for a community to flourish, everyone needs to put their gifts at the service of the whole/the service of the Lord. Paul speaks about individual parts of a human body having different organic functions. An ear cannot taste and an eye cannot touch, yet all must come together and do their part for the proper functioning or mission of the body.
God has made the entire body with its individual parts. All need to work together for the body to function well. Paul says that we are the body of Christ called the church. God the Spirit has given us different gifts. They all need to work together for the body of Christ to function well.
In the Gospel today, Jesus sets forth the mission God has given him, and publicly in the synagogue, he quotes from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61.
Mission of Jesus: he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
This is an amazing message. It is a broad task, a huge mission. It is still valid today for Christ and his body the Church. In his person as son of God and son of Mary, Jesus is able to embrace and set out to accomplish the fullness of the mission. It is not compartmentalized nor can these individual parts of the mission compete against each other. It is not either/or but both/and. It would be ridiculous to say that Jesus went about healing people who were afflicted with blindness or demons but that he neglected the poor. We know that is not true. The good news in the proclamation of our year acceptable to the Lord includes the entire mission of Jesus Christ.
There is unity of the body and the complete mission of the church compels us to work together and recognize that the church has a mission that includes the following:
Bringing good news and not condemnation.
Caring for the earth and being good stewards of all of God’s creation.
Recognizing that all human life from the moment of conception until natural death is to be protected. The church’s mission includes protecting the unborn, allowing death to take its natural course and not hastening it because it is too painful or difficult, and not advocating for the penalty of death for those who are sinners/criminals. God desires that all human life has dignity and deserves the opportunity to be converted and live.
The mission of the church/the body of Christ includes welcoming the stranger and helping the poor and the burdened and the oppressed. The mission of the church includes education and formation for all ages, especially the young. The mission of the church is not contained by boundaries or limitations that human beings tend to make. The mission of the body of Christ is universal. As Pope Francis says we go out to the peripheries to proclaim and live the Gospel. Not all of us can put our energies and talents to do all of these things, but the individual parts of the mission should work together and not be in opposition.
The passage that we hear today continues next Sunday. What is the reaction of those who listen to Jesus speak that this passage of Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing? Initially, they spoke highly of him and were amazed. And then, they try to compartmentalize him: Isn’t this the son of Joseph the carpenter’s son? They don’t like it. The people do not accept this mission of Jesus. In fact, they want to throw him over the brow of the hill on which Nazareth is built.
Robert Barron has this very important message in regard to those who oppose
Jesus and claim that he is mad. I quote from Bishop Baron because it seems to
me that what he is talking about exists even in the church and in our world
“The basic problem is always the fearful ego. Ego-addicts know that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to protect the ego and its prerogatives, you must oppress and demoralize those around you.
There is a very unsubtle version of this method: you attack, put down, insult, and undermine those around you. This is the method of the bully. But the religious version is much subtler and thus more insidious and dangerous. It takes the law itself—especially the moral law—and uses it to accuse and oppress. “I know what’s right and wrong; I know what the Church expects of us; and I know that you are not living up to it.” And so I accuse you; I gossip about you; I remind you of your inadequacy.
Mind you, this is not to condemn the legitimate exercise of fraternal correction or the office of preaching. But it’s a reminder to not be sucked into the slavery of ego addiction. We must stay alert to this and avoid it at all costs.”
I close by highlighting another bishop, our own Richard Stika of Knoxville. We are engaged in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal which many of you have already received information about. The theme is beautiful this year: United in Christ. Throughout East Tennessee from where we live in Northeast Tennessee down to Chattanooga and going west to the Cumberland Plateau, we are living the mission of Jesus Christ. In the bulletin today is an insert which summarizes the broad mission that we all share as Catholic Christians in the Diocese of Knoxville. I have already increased my pledge from last year and invite you to prayerfully consider how you can offer your financial gifts to support the mission of the Church/the Body of Christ. sdlocked0