Neither My Brother Nor My Brother’s Keeper

Who is my brother?

Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.’ Anyone who does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother.

Matthew 12: 48-50.

We were also instructed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If all these people are our brothers and sisters and mothers, why do we gossip, slander, and libel? Why do we Christians and Catholic Christians build each other up by putting others down? Why do we “bond” at the expense of another child of God?

Mother Theresa Lenten Wisdom

Pope Francis calls gossip “the terrorism of words,” “poison” and the “devil’s weapon.” I myself am fully culpable of sins committed against others via flagrant or careless abuse of the tongue. Pope Francis recommends “biting our tongues.” Words can kill. But what about the “lesser” evils of words? Those abuses of the tongue that seem harmless or less harmful. Maybe funny? Witty? Cheeky?  Intriguing? Bonding?

I’m an active listener. Daily I witness conversations which thrive on the expense of another or others. Everyday friends, family, and loved ones build each other up by putting others down. What ignorant and insecure people we are.

Observation without compassion and charity becomes sinful. There is right and wrong. There is natural law. There is physical and metaphysical reality. There is faith and reason. There is sin and evil. There is love and virtue. Not everything is relative.

What happens when we use our differences to hide our insecurities or avoid much needed growth? There is nothing quite like a little laughter and public mocking as a familial and bonding activity or an intense avoidance tactic.

Sometimes a familiar target is chosen. Many times an unknown target is chosen. Different: clothes, food, language, accents, employment, religion, residencies, vehicles, education, culture, geographic regions, expectations, music, etc. Oh, how many times I hear people mock Southerners or cultural expectations or music preferences. It’s always us versus them and cackle like hyenas. Aren’t we so enlightened and witty? You can’t get much further from the truth. If we must build ourselves up (and our families, friends, cultures, cities, groups, and loved ones) at the expense of others, how small, unenlightened, shallow, and insecure people we must be. Our love for comparison diminishes our capacity for virtue. Comparison also enslaves us and limits our freedom.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4: 18

Whether in a Siberian gulag, a Yazidi camp or African nomadic village, we are born, we live, and we die. We are more similar than dissimilar. An Alabama soldier is a much a person as an Idaho tire salesman or an Ivy League Scholar or a Midwestern housewife or a Mormon missionary.

We must remember that each and every person is a child of God. Our words must also mirror this reality, especially as Catholic Christians. It’s better to “bite our tongues” than spiritually die by the words that escape our lips. Words mean something. Words either bring forth greater light, life and love or not. Do our words send us to heaven or hell? Do our words reflect the intrinsic dignity of humanity or not?

We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whomever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 18-21

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