In this homily based on 1 Corinthians 12, Father Richard shows how the apostle Paul understood our unity in diversity through the metaphor of the Body of Christ:
Humanity consistently has to face the problem of unity and diversity. We’re not very good at understanding it. That’s why we continue to struggle in our society with rampant racism, along with sexism, homophobia, classism, nationalism, and more. We habitually choose our smaller groups, because we don’t know how to belong to a larger group. That demands too much letting go.
The apostle Paul writes: “The body is one, although it has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, are still one body. And so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Here Paul develops the doctrine known as the Body of Christ. This isn’t easy for Westerners to understand, because we are deeply trained in cultural individualism. So much so, we don’t even recognize our lack. When we try to be holy without one another, it doesn’t work—because only the Whole is Holy. Individually we are too small, too fragile, too broken to fully represent the Mystery of Christ.
Paul continues by emphasizing unity: “For in One Spirit, we were all baptized into One Body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons. We were all given of One Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). In this verse, Paul tears down notions of nationalism, classes, and castes.
Then he honors diversity: “The Body is not a single part, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). Each of us reading this meditation is a different and unique person. And yet at the same time, we are not so different and unique. The mystics go to deeper levels to realize that we are more one than we are many. When we can move from “I” to “we,” our conversion begins. Most of us start by thinking “It’s all about me!” Only generous, unconditional love can free us from this self-isolation—but for many this only comes later.
We often ask our isolated selves, “Am I perfect enough? Good enough?” Yes, you are perfect and good enough! Yet as individuals, we are too fragile, too insecure, too small, to bear the weight of glory. And also too little and weak to bear the burden of sin.
We are corporately quite stupid and sinful. I wrote a small book trying to show that Paul actually teaches a most subversive thing: Evil is corporately agreed upon as good before individuals ever dare to do it.  We all cooperate in absurd systems. When we humbly and honestly recognize this, we learn much more readily how to join hands with one another. We’re trained to compare and compete; that’s the nature of capitalism. The gospel undercuts that by saying, first of all, that we are one; and secondly, that each of us is a unique individual. Holding our oneness and individuality together reveals the Christian mystery: “You are all Christ’s Body, and individually, you are parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
 See Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2019).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Unity Is Created Out of Diversity,” homily, January 27, 2019.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard Rohr, Micky ScottBey Jones, John Dear, and more on “Unity and Diversity” in Oneing.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 24 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Warren K. Leffler, View of the huge crowd, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Warren K. Leffler, Demonstrators sit, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Humanity is One although we are as diverse as flowers in a field. There is power in many different individuals coming together for one purpose—the March on Washington reminds us that together we have the capacity to be a transformative body and force for change.
Story from Our Community:
I once did a meditation on the icon of the Trinity. I felt like I was a fountain being slowly drawn into the center. The process repeated until I was in total sync with the Trinity that I was no longer aware of myself. I am absorbed into the world around me and feel a deepening bond that I was unaware of until now. I’m aware of a oneness with all and in that unity, I hold everything in prayer for Divine Grace and Healing.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.