The Body of Christ
The St Paul wrote to the First Century Church in Corinth, about the need to maintain unity in the Body of Christ, the Church (Corinthians (12:12-27):
"The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though are, are one body; and so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, " Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, " it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you, " nor again the head to the feet, " I do not need you." Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it: if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. You then are the body of Christ. Everyone of you is a member of it."
One of the main charisms of the Pope in the Catholic Church is to preserve this unity of the Body of Christ. In fact the word "pontiff" comes from a Latin word that means "bridge-builder." Bishop Clark's role, as a successor of the apostles, is to maintain unity both with the Pope and the larger Catholic Church, as well as maintain a unity with and among all the parishes in the Diocese of Rochester. Otherwise we become more like a free standing Protestant congregation. This is what happened not long ago to one of our Catholic Parishes, which now calls itself Spiritus Christi, split off from Corpus Christi. Bishop Clark is responsible, as the chief shepherd of our local church, for both the well being of the whole diocese as well as each parish. For example, when Father Leo almost four years ago left for a new assignment, Bishop Clark was concerned about the pastoral care of the people of Clyde and Savannah. So he appointed me as the pastor of St. John and St. Patrick, to extend his ministry in this area. These last four years of being with over a hundred families in their time of grief and celebrating the funeral liturgies, bringing communion to many people in their homes and anointing them, visiting parishioners at area hospitals (including Strong Memorial & Rochester General) and nursing homes, celebrating baptisms, First Communions and weddings with many families from both parishes, are all examples of the extension of Bishop Clark's pastoral concern for the people of St. Patrick and St. John. Bishop Clark also appointed Deacon Greg Kiley to minister here as part of his diaconal ministry. No matter where we are located, we are part of the Body of Christ, which St. Paul writes about, in the above passage. So we can't talk about the "diocese" as "out there" some place. We are the Diocese of Rochester. I wouldn't be here if Bishop Clark didn't send me here out of concern for you. We are all connected parts whether as a local parish or a regional cluster. This is symbolized in the liturgy when the priest breaks off a piece of the host and places it in the wine. At one time in the church's history, the Bishop used to break a small piece of the host and send it to each community as a sign of the unity with the bishop and each of the parishes (communion="common union"). Another example is St. Paul taking up a collection among the Gentile Christians to help the poorer Jewish-Christians in the Jerusalem Church (Romans 15:26-28). This followed from his understanding of the unity of the Body of Christ. He knew that it is only by pooling our resources and helping one another out, that we can accomplish together, what we can't do by ourselves. " The Partners in Faith" Campaign or the Thanksgiving Appeal, are examples of this in our time & in our place. May we be conscious of our unity in Christ in the days ahead.