From a Creighton Student's Perspective
January 6, 2011
1st Year Dental Student
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. - 1 Jn 4:20
When I initially read these words in preparation for this reflection, they did not strike me as terribly difficult. I took them at face value, assuming my brother was someone I care for, someone I know personally like a friend or a family member. Since then I have reread this bit from the First Reading as well as the rest of the day’s scripture, and I’ve come away with some questions, as well as what I think is a challenge meant to push us and, ultimately, to save us.
The most compelling question from this First Reading is: whom should we consider as a brother? I think it would be too easy to say that a brother is someone we already know, respect, and care for. What if we expand the definition of brother to include the forgotten old man in the nursing home we visit, the homeless woman who stands on the corner we drive by everyday, the girl we sit next to during class, the salesperson who calls our house at night, and the man we see driving the bus each morning? I think what is astounding about this idea of expanding the word brother is the fact that we are called to, not only move past hating any of them, but actually love them. Hating, in my opinion, at least in the context it is used here, does not necessarily mean malice; it can mean anything as deceptively benign sounding as apathy. What if we pushed it even further? What if our brothers include the child soldiers in Africa, prisoners in our local cities, and the countless other oppressed or forgotten people in this world?
It can seem overwhelming, the extent of suffering that there is in the world, and it is taxing for the alert human heart. However, we are called to serve and to love our brothers, and, as tough as it may be, I think today’s readings are challenging us to see our brothers as every person we encounter, perhaps even in as impersonal an encounter as a television commercial, calling special attention to the poor, the captives, and the oppressed as Jesus quotes from Isaiah in the Gospel.
Now, let’s take it a step farther and make the question and challenge a bit more personal. We all recognize that there is suffering in our local communities, across the country, and across the world, and, as such, our hearts can become pulled in so many directions that it becomes difficult to find any hope in doing anything at all. What difference can I make in a world where there is so much pain?
Christ is not asking us to take on everything at once, and He is not asking us to do it all on our own. However, I think that He is asking us to push ourselves to expand the circle of our lives, to learn to see every person we come across as a sibling, a brother or sister striving and struggling through life, just like us, knowingly or unknowingly searching for God. We are called to take each other by the hand, embrace each other’s struggles, and say, “here, come with me, we can face this world together and maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference for others too.”
This is where our salvation lies. This is where we come to know ourselves, the people around us, and the world we live in. It is through faith, through hope that we can face the world each and every day confident in the belief that we are making a difference. Christ is beckoning us to open our eyes and see each other, waiting patiently for us to embrace each other, challenging us to move further and further from our walls towards a community of brothers and sisters.
It can all start with the gift of a smile to someone who might desperately need it.
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