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Part of the Whole

On our family Zoom gathering yesterday, we waited for our mother to arrive and share her experience of attending church. This was her first major outing since the time of shelter-in-place and there were concerns, how/if/whether, balanced against the shared sentiment that if the joy of the experience far outweighed the risks associated, we supported her.

And it was joyfully that she shared each phase of the experience – even through masking, assigned seating and a smaller crowd prohibited from embrace. Her emotion-filled telling of serving as lector for Pentecost Sunday affirmed the decision as right for her.

As she recounted the first line of the first reading – “we are many parts” – I immediately heard the accompanying hymn that would follow:

We are many parts; we are all one body.  And the gifts we have we are given to share.  May the Spirit of love, make us one indeed.  One, the love that we share; one, our hope in despair,  one, the cross that we bear.

I haven’t attended a Catholic Mass for many years, for many reasons, but in the opening score of my life, I was a consistent participant and the music was always my favorite part. These lyrics struck a chord in the dissonant reflections I’d had all week.

We are not sharing love freely and equally.

We diminish the despair of others and keep hope hidden for ourselves.

We don’t want to hear complaints about the weight or the splinters of the cross.

We aren’t willing to see that not only have we asked others to shoulder our share, we have placed ourselves atop, adding hundreds of years of privilege to the weight of the load.

These feelings echoed more deeply today in the random revisiting of an episode of my own podcast, reflecting on this quote:

The part can never be well unless the whole is well. - Plato

The whole is not well. The parts are selectively ignored and oppressed.

We draw circles, take sides, judge, condemn and criticize, strangling the part through divisions in the whole.

At best we profess the parts indistinguishable, pretending away the experience of others and shirking responsibility for provision of equitable care to all members of the whole.

When will we honor the parts of the whole as distinct, identifiable, beautiful and worthy?

When will we accept that our thoughts, feelings and actions contribute to the results of the whole?

When will realize we can change them to protect, promote and preserve all parts equally?

The whole must be well for the unique parts to find wellness.

What part do you want to play in the health of the whole?

May we carry the weight with love for community, through the emotion-filled sharing of words and action, seeing that in fulfilling the call to serve, the joy in health of the whole truly outweighs any associated risks as we support each other to do our part.

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