Diversity in the Body of Christ - There's No Comparison!
If you have children in your life, then you have probably heard about Disney’s latest film, “Encanto.” If not, you’re going to hear about it now! The movie tells the story of a Colombian family – la familia Madrigal – who are unique in that the children of the family each receive a special gift (some sort of “super power”) from the “miracle” that has blessed the family for many years. One has the gift to be able to heal with her food; another the power to control the weather; another the ability to see the future (but we don’t talk about that!); another has superhuman strength; another makes flowers bloom; another has powerful hearing; one can change his shape; and another can talk to animals.
And then there’s Mirabel. Poor Mirabel never received a gift from the family’s blessing. She is still a great kid, but she always seems to lament the fact that – compared to her gifted family members – she is not special. In one of her musical numbers, Mirabel sings, “I can’t move mountains; I can’t make the flowers bloom… I can’t heal what’s broken; can’t control the morning rain or a hurricane; can’t keep down the unspoken, invisible pain; always waiting on a miracle.”
Her suffering is understandable – especially for anyone who has ever felt compared to someone else. And in this age of social media, isn’t that so many of us? Why am I not as clever or successful as that person? Why is my family a mess and theirs is so wonderful? Why does everyone seem to have so much fun and I am always left out? Why is everyone else so awesome, and I’m – well – I’m … me? It’s also interesting that, as impressive as Mirabel’s sisters are, they are not as happy as they seem to others – much like on social media. The temptation to compare ourselves with other people is a strong one, and it is one that affects us throughout our lives. However, the Word of God speaks to this.
Today, we hear St. Paul speaking beautifully of the roles of the various members of the Body of Christ. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
This message should come as encouragement to anyone who feels like they don’t have a place or a purpose. God has put you right here – right where you are – for Hispurpose – and that is a great thing! Without the diversity of gifts that God has placed in the midst of the Church – in our community – we could not fully be the Body of Christ that we are called to be. We need each other – regardless of our gifts, our strengths, or our weaknesses. They all belong here. You belong here, exactly as you are.
In “Encanto,” Mirabel recognizes a problem that is facing her family. The family home (the “casita”) sort of speaks to her and having received that message she seeks to heal what is broken in the family. She finds that it is not a popular message, and that the family habit is to ignore and even shun difficult messages. Nevertheless, this is the “word” that must be shared; and, it seems, Mirabel – lowly Mirabel with no “special gift” – is the one to share it.
This also speaks to our celebration today. This Sunday, we observe the Sunday of the Word of God, in which we recognize the special place that the Word has in our community and in our Church. This Word is living, and it still speaks to us, still comforts us, still challenges us. That’s not always easy, but it is certainly for our good and for the advancement of God’s plan. Like Mirabel, we need to be brave enough to speak it and share it; our world needs to be humble enough to listen. We need to be humble enough to listen.
As Jesus speaks these words of comfort today – that the Spirit of the Lord comes to bring glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives … recovery of sight to the blind…and freedom to the oppressed – we are reminded that we are all together in this community of many gifts, and no two are alike, but each is necessary.
When Mirabel’s family members stopped focusing on their individual gifts and remembered that they are all blessed to be a part of that wonderful family it brought great healing. This is what we need too! We are blessed to be different – to be diverse – because it is through those differences that God creates the harmony of the Body of Christ which is the harmony that He wishes for all of us. When we know that truth, we are closer to salvation, closer to a year acceptable to the Lord, and this Scripture is truly fulfilled in our hearing.