THE FIVE FINGER FABLE. Once upon a time there was a hand, much like this one (hold up left hand) with five fingers. One day the fingers were standing around shooting the breeze when the thumb spoke up and said, “You know, I’ve been reading and I am the opposable thumb. I am a great advance in evolution. I allow the man to grasp tools and so to advance in culture. And I am important.” All the other fingers considered this for a short while and then said, “Yes, you are important.”
“Attention! Attention!” proclaimed the index finger. “I am a natural leader. I point the way, I push the buttons, I make things happen and drive home the points, and I am important too.” And all the other fingers agreed.
Then came the deep husky voice of the middle finger: “Hey youse guys, I am the tallest and the biggest of all. I got more street smarts than all the rest of you put together. I tell it like it is, and I am important too.” And all the other fingers hurried to agree because they did not want to cross the middle finger.
“Don’t forget about beauty” came the mellifluous voice of the ring finger. “I bear the insignia of academic achievement and signs of love and commitment. I am adorned with silver and gold, jewels and diamonds, and I am important too.” And all the other fingers agreed.
Finally the high squeaky voice of the pinkie spoke up saying, “Hey guys, I’m the pinkie. Don’t forget about me. I’m important too!” But this time, instead of agreeing, all the other fingers jeered and laughed. “You little pipsqueak important!?! Get out of here!” And they called him “shrimp” and “runt” and other names I cannot repeat in church.
Well, the pinkie’s feelings were hurt. But he was proud. So he pulled himself up as straight and tall as he could and just stayed like that, ramrod stiff. The other fingers looked and him for a short time, and finally said, “Well, let him go off by himself. We don’t need him. He’s useless anyway.”
That afternoon the body was typing (keyboarding) an assignment, but with the pinkie stuck out straight and stiff, not doing his part, it was hard going, especially with the “A’s”. The body was getting frustrated, but the left hand kept making excuses.
Finally in frustration the body decided to go for a walk to relax. It walked along a hillside where there was a steep cliff. As the body walked along suddenly the cliff gave way and the body went over the side towards the deep ravine far below. But luckily the body grabbed hold of tree root and so did not go over. But with the left pinkie stuck out by itself the hand could not get a good grip and the hand began to slip. The body ordered the hand “get a grip!” but it could not do it without all the fingers working together. Finally the other fingers realized that they needed the pinkie. He was necessary for the hand to work well, and he was important. “Pinkie, you are important too” the other fingers shouted. “We need you!” “Really?” asked pinkie. “Yes!” they shouted, and the pinkie quickly joined in and the hand got a grip like a vise on that tree root, until help came and the body was saved. Afterwards all the parts of the body agreed that the pinkie was important. In fact every part of the body is important and needed.
St. Paul in today’s second reading gets a little weird. He uses this rather unappealing image of a giant eye-ball. He asks “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” It is a rather strange argument, but the point is clear, every part of the body is important, indeed necessary.
In fact, the body can be a body only if there is a diversity of parts. If it were all the same, it could not function as a body. The diversity is necessary for the unity of the body. Paul’s insight is that uniformity is the enemy of unity, that conformity is the enemy of community. Our working together as one is predicated on our being different. Only in our difference can we support and help each other in many different ways.
Unity comes not from being the same, but rather from having the same spirit, the same mission and ideals. In the case of the Body of Christ that means the Holy Spirit. It is a simple, but radical, insight. We need each other, and we need each other to be different.
This is easy to see but difficult to live out. Many different gifts are necessary for the full functioning of a Christian community. But I have been in parishes, and I bet you have too, where there were splits in the parish between the “contemporary” guitar group and the “traditional” organ choir: Between the school religious ed and the CCD program: Between the Anglo and the Hispanic groups: Between the "pro-life" people and the "social justice" people, and so on. And when we get out of church and into society it gets even worse. Just look at the state of our political discourse in this state and in our nation.
We must value and work for our unity in Christ. This means we must value and work for our diversity at well. For the two - unity and diversity - are opposite sides of the same coin.
All of us are one Body in Christ. As St. Paul tells us: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” By honoring all the parts of our Christian community, especially the weaker and more vulnerable, the pinkies among us, we will all be more honored as the true Body of Christ. AMEN.