Pause for togetherness (First published in the Euro Weekly News on 17th October 2019)
Typical isn’t it. Just about to go on holiday when a toe started swelling and feeling sore. Squeezed in a visit to the Doctor, who suggested the possibility of a spider bite, prescribed antibiotics, dressed the offending toe and wished me a happy and relaxing holiday, after which we set off to Valencia for the onward flight to Malta. The drive and subsequent flight became increasingly uncomfortable and it was with great relief that I was eventually able to relax and remove my shoes and socks.
Did I say relax? The pain that hit as the shoes came off was beyond description, as was the condition of my very swollen and discoloured right foot, necessitating an early visit to the Maltese equivalent of an urgencia, from whence I was rapidly transferred to hospital. Much of the ‘holiday’ was then spent enjoying the hospitality of the Maltese Health Service, undergoing a variety of tests, receiving numerous doses of intravenous antibiotics and a certain amount of surgery.
Incredible that so small a part of the body could cause so much pain and trouble, leaving me completely incapacitated; unable to think properly, my whole body feeling the pain. It’s fascinating therefore to realise that St Paul, writing nearly 2000 years ago to a group of people in the city of Corinth, used just such an experience to illustrate the ideals of human relationships in any society, but particularly within the new Christian community there.
So he noted that our bodies are designed in such a way that every part is essential to our well-being, all of equal value to our overall health and happiness, so that our whole body suffers when just one single member, however small or insignificant, is suffering. And that logic, he continued, should be similarly applied to our relationships with others. How advanced was this teaching? That all, whether influential or otherwise, regardless of wealth or status, should be valued alike and be supported by all, feeling their pain when suffering – as my whole body felt the pain of a humble toe.
It’s a tough call, but I’d guess most of us can think of groups, communities, churches and yes, countries that could benefit from applying this lesson.