We are responsible for one another

We are offered a very simple criterion to judge whether we are right with God. We are right with God if we are right with humanity. We love the One in heaven if we love the other on earth. It could be said that our brothers and sisters have been given us to remind us, because of their likeness, of God.

I would not like to be spoken ill of, starved, kept homeless, workless, joyless… and so, as much as it is in my power, I should be active so that others may be honoured, fed, housed, employed and filled with consolation. Then we establish a kind of equality, which is, as I treat my brother and sister, so God treats me; as my brother or sister treats me, so God treats him or her.

It could be said that God is the first to practice the key precept of the Gospel: ‘Love you neighbour as yourself’, and he loves according to his nature as God, that is, infinitely. In fact this love urges him to the point of wanting us one with him, making us sharers in his nature. Did he not, for this very reason, make himself share our nature? And this puts us in our place so as to bestow on us a life together with him.

Individualism, with its closing down and swelling up of the ego in the shell of it is own personal exclusivity, suffocates the soul and, as it lacks the circulation of warmth, it is extinguished. And the soul suffers cold, dies frozen. It is enough, though, that one should love a brother or sister, because bringing warmth back to the spirit of the other, the soul warms up itself. A warning habitually made to us is the exhortation or the prohibition to mix with these or those people… Yet Jesus spoke even with the Samaritan woman, scandalizing his friends. And he wanted us to leave the 99 obedient sheep to seek out precisely the disobedient hundredth.

In coming close to a brother or sister, I come under a responsibility for that person’s eternal future and hence also for my own, given the solidarity that lies beneath our relationships. However many times our brother or sister sins, in a minor or major way, it is also our sin, a collapse created by our lack of love.

How often a criminal is an individual who has had a lack of love, so much so that the Crucified One, over the heads of the judges in session could utter: ‘Let anyone who is pure cast the first stone!’ How many brothers and sisters have been lost because they have been abandoned by us!

Igino Giordani, Il Fratello (The Brother), (Rome: Città Nuova, 2011; first published by Figlie della Chiesa, 1954).

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