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Saturday, September 12, 2020

We Are The Body

We Are The Body

It’s a cliché to state that one does not appreciate something until one loses it. In my process of rehabilitation of my left ankle, I have gained so much more than appreciation, and even wonderment for the marvelous mechanics of walking normally. Our human body is wonderfully made, and it needs much care and attention especially when it is ailing, or when threatened by a pandemic, as we continue to have the necessary precautions to care for each other. Yet when our St Patrick School says that we care for Body, Mind, and Spirit, the school means not our human body, but the Body of Christ.

Like many people, when I first heard “Body, Mind, and Spirit,” I assumed that the first part of the tripartite motto alluded to eating healthy food, and exercising regularly. Instead, I learned that students at our school learn that we are all parts of a larger Body. Just like not being able to bear full weight on my left ankle for a while was affecting my healthy right ankle because of the extra weight the healthy ankle was bearing, so when one person is ailing whether physically, economically, emotionally, or spiritually, we all are affected, because we are connected in the Body of Christ.

What if we framed the divisive issues in our society in this way? For example, there are many voices inspired by the anti-racism movement calling out to the underlying causes that lead to people of color being the ones to disproportionately being the ones shot by a police officer. We can simply dismiss such a fact with another fact: there are more crimes in neighborhoods where the majority of people are people of color. Yet I think that our times demand a deeper conversation, because parts of our society are hurting. What we do when we are in pain is something to ponder carefully, as couples learn to better calm down rather than keep escalating a dispute or disagreement, and because they hurt, they could say something hurtful to the other person.

The great indignation of many people in society have led to celebrities on prominent magazines to liken the destructive unrest sparked after George Floyd’s murder to “the same fire that burned in the veins of the Sons of Liberty when they dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea at Griffin’s Wharf.” I am quoting Pharrell Williams, whom we might know from the 2014 hit song “Happy.” His inveterate essay on the Aug 31 / Sep 7 issue of Time magazine left me unsettled. He seemingly advocates for a revolution like the American revolution. Such revolutions like the American revolution, and other wars of independence, occur when all other options have been exhausted, and on good conscience people discern that violence is the only way forward.

Going back to the analogy of the Body, translating Pharrell’s comparison of the social unrest to the American revolution to me sounds like amputating a limb with gangrene in order to save the rest of the Body. The American revolutionaries amputated themselves from the gangrene of England because they discerned that in good conscience, in order to grow into the ideals of liberty such violence was deemed necessary.

What if instead of gangrene, what we are experiencing now is trauma instead. The trauma of a broken bone and ruptured ligaments, if unstable requires stabilization, healing of bones, and then physical therapy. This process calls for patience. In my case, the physical therapy I have to do for my ankle is painful, because the internal scar tissue needs to break down so that the fibers can become more flexible. It is a temptation for me to avoid pain and not engage in the physical therapy, but such an option will lead me to remaining with a stiff joint. Remaining still for too long in order to avoid all pain, will mean that we stop recovering. Perhaps, the same dynamics apply to the larger body of this nation, and to the Body of Christ, in that sometimes painful processes are necessary in order to continue growing into our ideals. Perhaps the scar tissues in American society need therapy, rather than amputation.

The parts of the body of the nation that have not suffered the conditions that leave them more vulnerable to poverty and crime, could begin to ask themselves, how could we as members of a larger body help the members who are suffering? When the question is about a natural disaster such as the ongoing wildfires, it becomes easier perhaps to respond by making a donation to relief organizations, but what do we do about more chronic social problems?

When thinking of these questions it helps me to ground me by thinking locally. I am thinking of how blessed we are to live in a peaceful area of the city. Not too far from us, there are neighborhoods that live under more dangerous conditions, regarding crime. Rather than living in a bubble mentality, how could we think more in terms of being a larger body? I confess that last year when I heard that a neighboring parish experienced the threat of violence, I was simply glad we lived in a safer area. Thank God, that threat never materialized for that parish into any kind of actual violence, but that pastor and the parish staff lived in fear. What could I have done differently?

While I do not know what the answer is to these questions, I think a good beginning is to start thinking differently. We are not isolated individuals, but members of a community; and we are not isolated communities, but members of a larger body.

God bless, Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA

 








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