In today’s first reading, St. Paul speaks to the Corinthian community about the necessity and source of unity. He lists several gifts that people in the community have and then speaks how they all work together to form the body of Christ. Many people have interpreted that to mean that everyone in the church is the same, and that the source of unity is our same-ness. But, if we look very closely, we can see that that’s not what St. Paul was saying. He chose the analogy of the body, I think, very carefully. Yes, every part of the body works together to make the whole person. But we have to admit that some parts of the body are more critical to have than others. People have gotten through life very well without an appendix or a spleen, but nobody has ever been able to live without a heart or at least one working kidney. Some parts of the body fulfill a more critical function than other parts.
We all have incredible gifts. We would prefer not to be deprived of any of them in our community. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is the same. Some have been called to positions of leadership, and we need them. Others have been called to be on committees, to work behind the scenes, and we need all of them too. But we aren’t all the same. We all bring different gifts. But they aren’t all the same. It’s not the same-ness of our gifts that unifies our community. What unifies our community is that everyone is willing to use their gifts for the greater honor and glory of God. What unifies us is our desire to fulfill the Lord’s desire to spread the Gospel – together, but each through the gifts that he or she has.
Comparing our gifts to those of others, or taking note of the hierarchy of our callings must not consume us. Instead, we each must take up our cross and work tirelessly according to our gifts and our calling to build up the body of Christ. We must not withhold our gifts nor leave the calling to others. The body would be severely disabled if many parts of it were missing. We must be a community unified in our task of living the Gospel and proclaiming the kingdom, each in our own way.