Ten years ago, my mother acquired a wonderful roommate in the nursing home where she spent her final days. During my daily visits, I came to love and admire Mrs. Austin, and “adopted” her happily since she had no family of her own. Although in her early nineties, she nonetheless remained alert, articulate and happy until the end. Since my mother couldn’t speak because of her illness, Mrs. Austin enthusiastically filled the void, chatting amiably, regaling us with stories, and even summoning a nurse when she sensed that my mother needed help. One day, while sharing our daily lunch together, Mrs. Austin observed that she and my mother “made a perfect pair. I’m a great talker, and she’s a wonderful and patient listener!”
Imagine if our parish were like that — each taking care to use his or her strength to make up for another’s weakness. In fact, that is exactly what should be happening in every congregation of Christian believers. The apostle Paul likened our differing spiritual and physical gifts to the various parts of the human body. Eyes, ears, hands, feet — all perform various functions. And yet, while very different from each other, they remain essential. As each fulfills its individual function and does so in harmony with all the rest, the whole body cannot help but benefit.
Just as all of us have certain weaknesses, so, too, we also have our particular strengths. God, in his providential and infinite wisdom, has gifted every believer for the good of the church. He has given each of us, from the most humble, an equal opportunity to be of service. In this way we come to understand that we need each other. This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote, “we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker.” (I Cor. 12:22). Because there is no such thing in the church as insignificant service for Christ, there also cannot be a nobody.