The Church a Communion
The Church is by definition a place and a process of communion, open to and inviting all people without discrimination. A place of hospitality and welcome, in the manner of Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament (Gen. 18). An earthly reflection of the unity of the Holy Trinity. A community of people with different yet complementary gifts. A vision of wholeness and of healing, of caring and of sharing. The Gospel of Christ challenges us: “just as the body is one and has many members... so it is with Christ...” (I Corinthians 12:12)
We all accept and proclaim that this is what the Church is and stands for. Why is it then that, all too often, certain people among us and around us – usually those whom we consider as being unfamiliar or as strangers, as somehow being different or perhaps disabled – are marginalized and even excluded, whether by our attitude or by the lack of accessibility in our facilities. Wherever this happens, even by passive omission, the Church is not what it is called to be. The Church is denied its reality. In the church, we are called to act otherwise:
“On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker [we should notice that St. Paul does not say actually are weaker’] are indispensable” (I Corinthians 12:22).
When we think of people with disabilities too often we tend to think of them as weak and as requiring care.
Yet, in his epistles, St. Paul implies that weakness is not a characteristic of an individual or a particular group, but of the entire Church. What we need to realize about responding to those among us with disabilities is that we are all in this together.
The Revelation of Gifts
Perhaps it is the starting point in our attitude and in our response that requires redirection at this point. For we should consider not simply the particular needs, but also the unique gifts of people with disabilities. In another passage on the Church as the Body of Christ, St. Paul writes:
“For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, though we are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another... We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to each or us” (Romans 12:4-6)
Every child and every adult, those with disabilities and those without disabilities alike, will bring specific and special gifts or talents to the Church.
Copyright permission granted 2015, The Body of Christ, Fr. John Chryssavgis pp 1-2. Published by Light and Life Publishing www.light-n-life.com.