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Exercising the Body

Do you have good hand-eye coordination? Are you skilled in certain tasks that require significant muscle memory? Do you have a physical talent that most people do not have? These questions are all intended to get you thinking about a physical body and how it works. Think of the first: when the hands and the eyes associate properly and are able to accomplish a task that requires using one's "eye of the mind" we find that the two can work incredibly fast together (video games are one place this plays out, but sadly, it is a fairly useless one).

The other two questions are not much different. Special skills are learned. The body can learn how to do certain things and to do them almost naturally. For me, saying Mass becomes natural since I do it (on average) seven times a week. Those motions almost occur without thinking about them.

Now, with all this in mind, I want you to think about an individual parish. St. Paul says that the parish (like the entire Church throughout the world) is like a body. It has parts, and those parts are supposed to work together. This applies to many more things than merely walking and talking. It applies to those hand-eye coordination actions and special skills that I mentioned above.

How well do the members of the parish work together? Do they connect well and cooperate with one another to accomplish great tasks? Of course, this presumes that the members are spending time together. If a part of the body says "I don't like being with other parts of the body" then that part is cutting itself off (and St. Paul condemns this selfish behavior in 1 Corinthians 12:20-26).

In the Corinthian church of the first century there was an apparent struggle between certain factions that caused some divisions. St. Paul is speaking to them and encouraging them to break down these divisions. In Catholic parishes today there is a completely different division that exists. In almost every parish there are those who want to be together (behaving like well tuned body parts!), and those who do not want to be together (sadly, behaving like uncooperative body parts). Our Lord does not portray parish life as "optional". Through St. Paul He shows us that we must interact with each other (and that means more than just saying "hi" at Mass).

God has determined which "part" of the body you are, and He wants you to serve in that capacity. If someone intentionally avoids every opportunity to be an active part of the body, then he is like a paralyzed hand; just sitting there lifeless, not involved with the rest of the body. A well exercised body is healthy and can perform skills in accord with the level of that health. Muscle memory occurs when the members of the body work together frequently (like in the Mass, but that is not the only place where this is needed). Special skills develop over time when the body is active and practices those skills in unison.

There are many in the Church today who struggle with social activities because of various bad experiences. Yet, those bad experiences are nothing that the Lord cannot overcome; you just need to be willing to submit to Him and let Him work on you. The spiritual well being of every member depends on the involvement (to some degree) of every member. As St. Paul said in the above quoted passage: "if one member suffers, all members suffer". Because you are baptized, you are a part of the body. Learn what that means, and live that out. The health of every member of our parish depends on it.


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