Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
November 3rd, 2009

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Professor
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Romans 12:5-16ab
Psalm 131:1bcde, 2, 3
Luke 14:15-24

Today we begin a series of readings from the last third of Paul’s letter to the Romans. If we are to understand God’s word for us in these readings, it will be helpful to know the context. Paul has just finished a comprehensive summary of what God has done for us in salvation history, leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and highlighting, for example in Chapter 6, our rebirth to new life in Christ after our dying with Him in our baptism. Paul begins this last third of his letter with the key word “therefore”. Because of the incredible salvation God has wrought for us, we therefore ought . . . Our readings these next few days will be devoted to a description of how we ought to be manifesting this new life we’ve been given. But it’s not just a list of things we must do. It is instead an expression of who and what we are. As today’s reading begins, “. . . we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” “Are” not “should become”.

It is extremely difficult for us, embedded in an individualistic culture, really to grasp what that means. It most certainly does not mean that we are members of the same team and therefore we should play together. It does not mean that we are members of the same political party and therefore should give priority to the party’s program. It doesn’t mean anything like that. In our culture we can drop off the team or change parties. Not so for who we are after our baptisms. Our old selves are dead. We cannot go back. Our life is Christ’s life; we are Christ in our world – not as metaphor but as reality.

Paul compares us to parts of the body – the body of Christ – with eyes and liver and heart all working toward the wellness of the whole organism. But once again, it’s not just a figure of speech. It is part of the vocation of all Christians to act for the good of the whole. Such action is characterized by the virtues, the behaviors, that Paul mentions – behaviors that work their way into every sphere of our lives.

For the past several months the United States has been involved in acrimonious debate over healthcare reform. Many approaches could be taken, some likely to work better than others. I do not here advocate for any particular solution, but I ask myself what does this last third of Romans tell us about this issue? Clearly it tells us: “. . . we are all members of one another.” Any reform we undertake must embody that principle. Remember the letter of St. James that we heard on the Sundays of this past September. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in need of daily food, and one of you says ‘Go in peace. Be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? That faith is dead” (James 2:13–17). Do the poor and immigrant deserve health care? Wrong question! Instead: Do they need it?

God has chosen to work through humans and if we humans withhold what our brothers and sisters need, then we block God’s forgiving love from operating in our world. We should make no mistake about that. We have that fearful power. Additionally, when we refuse to help one another we ourselves suffer; we ourselves are ill and crippled. A sick heart or liver makes our whole body sick. “We are all members of one another.”
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