Monday, May 3, 2010

Many Vital Signs, One Body (2 May 2010, 5th Sunday Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 2 May 2010, 5th Sunday of Easter for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck (Metropolitan Campus). To view the readings, go to and click “May 2” in the calendar.

[__01] It is remarkable that one vital sign can indicate health / wellness for the whole body.

For example, 98.6 degrees (Fahrenheit here in the U.S.) – ninety-eight point six degrees is our optimal body temperature. And, if your temperature goes well over 100 or into the low 90’s - the same thing. You will also not feel so well. Our whole body is affected by this one detail, by this one vital sign.

And, the doctor can then investigate based on that one piece of data.

It’s also true in our relationships, our families that one little thing can affect many other things.

[__02] A family is a body with vital signs. We can also say that relationships we get into in college are relationships with vital signs.

Sometimes, there are strains, and sprains and pulled muscles, even broken hearts and the need for checkups --- spiritually & emotionally.

By interpreting the words of Paul in the New Testament, to Corinth, we observe of the group – or one member of the Church to which Paul refers -- if one member suffers, then the whole family is touched and affected.

And, if one member of the family rejoices, then the whole family can rejoice …. (cf. 1 Cor 12:26)

[__03] And, we are called to share our joys and suffering with each other. This is why we come to Mass, why we receive Communion.

Receiving Communion is something we do – in community – not only for personal strength but also for strength and wholeness of the whole group.

Sharing our joys with him reminds us of all our relationships.

So, we come here to pray for each other, to pray for those who give us life and also to pray for those who may seem to take our life away.

This invites us to pray for our enemies. And “enemy” or “opponent” or “persecutor” does not necessarily a mean a long-distance relationship with someone who dresses very differently or lives very far away. Our enemy might be someone whom we are really trying hard to love and understand.

And, in this way, we pray that the relationship will change. And, we are praying to survive the suffering and to learn from it.

[__04] This refers us to the one Body of Christ, of which Paul writes, that when one person suffers, then we all suffer. If one person succeeds and rejoices, then we all succeed and rejoice. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26)

This is the Body of Christ.

But do we really live this way, behave this way? 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 24 by 7?

Especially at this time of final exams. Do I rejoice at the success of other people? My classmates? The seniors?

What Jesus is reminding us of in Holy
Communion is that our identity is not determined by our personal accomplishments, by our first name, middle name, last name, address, report card or Social Security Number.

Our identity is determined by our relationships and by the health of the whole body.

By coming to Mass, by praying for each other, we are trying to build up the whole body of Christ

[__05] It is good for our spiritual health to do this, to put aside our desires for success for comfort.

Sometimes, our desire for success- which in and of itself is not bad – also instills in us the disordered desire to gain advantage or even some demean someone else, to degrade someone else.

This also happens in human relationships both business and personal.

But that is not Communion.

It is really communion and communal when we put aside our own desires and celebrate the joy – or share the pain – of another person.

[__06] This is what Jesus is doing for us by going to the Cross.

Someday, for example, we might encounter – and we may not have to look very hard – to find someone in our midst who does not have too many friends, to find the one person – on campus or in our family is somehow the outcast.

Somebody who everyone else makes fun of. And, it is a risk to reach out to that person. We might be the outcast. Love is always a risk, isn’t it?

It is a risk to reach out to the person who cannot repay us who cannot love us in return. If you reach out to the unpopular one… you may also suffer from unpopularity. Or, you may not be repaid in popularity.

Yet, as we hear from or Lord in the Sermon the Mount, “the Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6)

[__07] When we reach out to that person, we are responding to Jesus’s call to love one another.

This is how they will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.

What does this love mean?

Earlier in this same chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus defines this love by washing the feet of his disciples, a seemingly insignificant act that, perhaps, does not call attention to itself with sirens, or lights.

It’s a seemingly insignificant act …but it is one detail just like reaching and touching the person-as-outcast which helps the health of the whole body.

Jesus also affirms this when he tells Peter who does not just want his feet washed but his whole body washed… “Whoever has bathed 6 has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over” (John 13:10)

So, the washing of the feet is a necessary detail for the whole body.

Just like 98.6 degrees (Fahrenheit) indicates the health of the whole body.

[__08] Jesus reminds us that we are one, one Body. And, this is what we are doing today at Sunday Mass. We imitate Christ today by sharing or joys and sorrows rejoicing when the other person rejoices and weeping when the other weep. (cf. Romans 12:15)

As Paul writes, “when one part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

And, this is our faith, our unity, and our Holy Communion.


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