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A few years ago, I was about to sign on the dotted line for a knee replacement by one of the doctors in a very large orthopedics practice. At the last minute it occurred to me to ask how that might affect the arthritis in my hip and a long history of spinal stenosis. I assumed that with all his experience as well as access to xrays, etc. of the hip and spine he could offer me some insight.

“Oh, no, you will have to see another colleague in this practice who specializes in hips and spines’.

I had a sense of being two persons… the “knee” in 404 and the “hip in 405. I also thought of the saying that sometimes specialists see everything in terms of the tools they are comfortable with.

I share this not so much in frustration with the medical establishment but as a metaphor for what is going on it our polarized society. People are seeing the whole of our society through their particular lens. They seem to have no interest in or ability to see the bigger picture.

I also see it as an example of why Paul felt compelled to write to the Corinthians. (12:21 ff)

there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Pope Francis

I also thought of Pope Francis. He never tires of calling for us “to renew our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family.” Elsewhere he says “As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.”

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” [Laudato Si’, 12].

What we can learn from the “mystics”

I thought of St. Vincent, “the mystic of charity”. As all mystics, he was aware that every person has dignity and all are interconnected. His concern was neither compartmentalized nor selective. He grew in awareness of the universality of a kingdom in which all were welcome regardless of place in society.  He became more and more aware of the connection he had with all in the body of human society. To him, all lives mattered, especially those who were shunted aside in his day. He also treated the whole person of those in need – body and soul.

See the whole picture

  • Reading Paul’s words, what do they say to our society and to me today?
  • What conversion does Francis’ words call you to… “we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.”

Click below for a audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk.

The “Knee” in 404