For the past eleven days the news of the world has centered on the devastation and loss of life in Haiti. We have been bombarded with news of the number of people killed, the number of building destroyed, and the difficulty of getting help to the people. Day after day we see and hear of the willingness of people from around the world to go and help the Haitians in this desperate time, we hear of the outpouring of financial from peoples around the world. This tragedy, like the tsunami of a couple of years ago brings the world together, it reminds us we are all in this together.
In our second reading Paul uses the image of the human body to remind us of a truth we often forget. Rugged individualism, personal autonomy, self sufficiency, independence – these are the touch words of our times – until we have a harsh reality like Haiti, then we realize we are all brothers and sisters one to the other.
Paul tells us what we already know but often forget “just as the body is one and has many members and all are members of the body though many are one body.” No member of our body can say to another ‘I have no need of you’ – no member of the body can say “because I am different I am not of the body.” Within this unity of life we call our own body we know that when one member suffers the whole body suffers and when one members glories the whole body glories.
This is true of the church, this is true of the human family; this is true of the community of life that makes us planet earth. As church we glory in people like Mother Teresa or Pope John 23rd and we are shamed by the scandal of sexual abuse no matter where it happens in the church. The family glories when we see the outpouring of generous support for the people of Haiti and we know humanity suffers when any of its members suffers from social injustice or any form of oppression that lessens the dignity of human beings.
The degradation and pollution of the seas, the land, the air we breathe, the extinction of species, the loss of rain forests, all weaken and sicken the total earth community. What we do to the earth we do to ourselves. When one member suffers we all suffer, when one member is healed we are all healed.
It takes a disaster like Haiti to waken us to this reality of our oneness, our connectedness with others. I wonder how long it will be before the suffering of the Haitian people will dim in our consciousness and we slip back into our old ways of living and thinking. It happens all the time. How often do we think about the survivors of the tsunami? How often do we ask if all the help sent to those devastated countries was well spent?
During the gigantic conference on climate changes held in Copenhagen there was a cartoon in one paper showing four people in a small boat. Two in the bow were looking at the two in the stern who were desperately trying to stop a leak. One says to the other, “thank God the leak isn’t in our half of the boat.”
We are all on the one boat, whether it be the bark of Peter or Noah’s ark.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we think deeply on this basic teaching of St. Paul – we are one body – no one can say to another, I have no need of you and when one member suffers the whole body suffers.