of Bishop Joao Rodrigues on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2017
The theme for this Pilgrimage
is: “One Body, Many Parts” (1 Cor 12,12).
The Church of Tzaneen Diocese has many parts.
For example, we are very conscious of the different Catholic associations or
sodalities in our diocese: the Sodality or Association of St Anne, of the
Sacred Heart, of the Immaculate Conception, of the Mothers of Hope, of Catholic
Women, and of Catholic Men. Each association has its own unique history and
gifts and abilities; we even enjoy showing off our differences by wearing
different coloured uniforms and flags. As we gather together from the north and
south and east and west of the diocese, we are also very conscious that we
belong to different cultural traditions and languages. The greatest challenge we have is not so much the fact of this great
variety of sodalities and talents and cultures in the diocese but rather the
divisions that sometimes take place within the groups themselves as well as
divisions between the different groups. But God calls us to be united as “one
body” in Christ so that we are able to celebrate our differences, our “many
parts” like a choir made up of many different voices but singing in harmony.
When we talk about being
“one body,” we are talking about our being united to one another because of a
deep personal faith which each one of us has in the same Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ. Our unity is not based on
belonging to the same sodality or the same culture but is based on our personal
conversion of life which aims at conforming to the Way of Life revealed by the
Lord Jesus Himself.What unites us
as a Church is this Way of Life which Christ revealed and calls each one of us
When we do this we become
united to Christ first of all, and, through Him, we become united to one
another. For example, if each singer in a choir sings the same song, it does
not matter if the singer has a bass voice or a tenor voice or an alto voice or
a soprano voice. In fact all these different voices will make the song even
more beautiful and pleasing to the ear. Their unity is based on the fact that
they are all united to the same song. But if each person sings a different song,
it will sound like an ugly horrible noise which our ears will not be able to
tolerate. Similarly, when we all follow the same Way of Christ, we become “one
body,” harmonious, beautiful and pleasing to behold even though each one of us
is gifted with different kinds of gifts or talents, with different cultural
roots, with different languages and with different complexions. But if we all
follow different ways of behaving, ways which contradict the Way of Christ, our
differences will simply turn us into an ugly intolerable and violent people.
celebrating the Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the
Patroness of South Africa, we are reminded of
how humble she was in her submission to Christ and how faithfully she followed
the Way of Christ in her own life. Today we hear
Mary sing: My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low
estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me
blessed. (Luke 1,39). In the Responsorial Psalm of today,(Psalm 45), we get an
insight into Mary’s spirit of submission :”Forget your own people and your
father’s house, then will the King desire your beauty, he is your Lord, pay
homage to Him.” Yes, forget your own people; rather remember who your Lord is, submit to His authority,follow Him,
obey Him and then the Lord will desire your beauty and all generations will
call you blessed! We are all called to do the same just like Mary did.
Being “One body many parts” is not just an empty dream for Believers in Christ.
It is indeed a challenging call to which each one of us can respond and
experience in this life through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In fact Christ
expects us to follow Him in this life, here
and now!. It is not something to wish for in the distant future but
something each one of us can do right now. The Word of God today emphasizes
this: “Now the salvation and the
power and kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.
(Revelation 11: 10) Now we belong to
Christ and thus united to one another and we remain belonging to Christ “until
He has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15: 20-27).
Christ expects us to be
faithful, not adulterous people. Christ expects us to be honest, not corrupt
thieves. Christ expects us to be truthful, not liars because of his saving
grace in our lives. Unity is not
possible where there is corruption and lies. It makes no sense to belong to the
Church of Jesus Christ and at the same time to behave in ways which contradict
the Way of Christ. Unity is not an automatic gift of Christ to his Church
We need to understand the sacrifice required from each one of us for this unity
to be realized. We need to work on it by repenting from behavior which goes
against the spirit of Christ. If we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ
can bear witness to being “one body many parts” then there is hope for South
Africa, our nation, which is struggling to find a united voice. In the Church,we
can show that unity in diversity is not just a dream but a reality in our
lives. But if we – the Church of Jesus Christ – fail, then I am afraid there is
little hope for South Africa as a whole to ever succeed in this regard. Let us
therefore not give up trying. Let us cherish every single effort we make to
help advance the Way of Christ in our lives. And while we do this we continue
to pray for the conversion of South African people in general and of our
leaders in particular because this is our responsibility before God.
Queen assumed into Heaven, Patroness of South Africa, pray for us.