Fr. Glenn: Our Common Fraternity

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

Remember this Memorial Day to honor the memory of those military and first responders who have given their lives in our service. And may God bless those families who have given so much.

One of the hallmarks of the military is that of “fraternity”—the “band of brothers” (including women serving, of course!). Those who have served in the military know exactly what it is—the comradery of shared experiences and, for those who have served in combat, shared fears, trials and interdependence on one another. But fraternity also is a characteristic of any good community, for communities are established for the very purpose of common benefit.

One of the most poignant reminders of unity is psalm 133—one of the shortest of the psalms, and yet, where most psalms address multiple themes, this one is exclusively about fraternity: 

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.

Regardless, what is best for the common good is legitimately debatable. The recreational bond issue last week, for example, is something with both plusses and minuses, as was apparent by the close final vote. Sadly, in the vocally contentious political clime of our day, it seems to have become almost mandatory to demonize those with whom we disagree or have differences—even in minor issues. I often wonder why some feel this demonization is necessary, sometimes attributing to opponents the most heinous of motives without evidence. Some say that has always been the way of politics. But should it be? If we depart from truth, reasonability and respectful dialogue, how can we ever arrive at the best of outcomes?

So, we examine ourselves first of all. For instance, do I have a “Coexist” bumper sticker, and yet insist on my own way, or spew vitriol in public forum? If we will not deign to dialogue rationally and calmly over comparatively trivial issues like traffic circles and recreation bonds, why would we expect diverse religions and cultures to “coexist”. Or perhaps I proclaim “We all live on the same planet!”, and yet treat opponents as if they’re from another one. 

Yes, perhaps it’s a bit naïve to expect that we’ll “all just get along” … but it sure would be nice!, and is an ideal which begins necessarily with each of us. But we have to reject being small and petty in Gollum-ish fashion: “We hates them, precious; we wants to stabs out their eyes’es!”… or the arrogant and intolerant “Well, you’re entitled to your erroneous and stupid opinion.”

Now we Christians especially must remember our discipleship obligation to be patient with all.  One thing that one learns very quickly in ministry is that there exists a remarkably diverse range of personality types and ways of thinking—all of whom we have to deal, and some with whom we find affinity, and some we don’t. But such affinity is immaterial; we are called to have patience, respect and even love for our neighbor nonetheless—remembering that such love is not necessarily warm feelings, but rather seeking (and wanting) the good of the other person. After all, Jesus did NOT say “Love thy neighbor … but only if you like the guy.” Grace comes not so much in loving those who are easy to love, but rather with those who are troublesome and more difficult—but loving them anyway.

So when dealing with others, let us never forget that we are called to be one Body of Christ, not several parts at war with one another (ref. 1 Corinthians 12). Always the Golden Rule of “treat others as you would want to be treated”—the unfailing sign of a good heart. As we remember Memorial Day and the sacrifices others have made for their countrymen, we remember that powerful line of “America the Beautiful”: “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

We Christians are called to be examples to others—to be the “salt of the earth” and “light to the world” by our living the Gospel. As is said, there is one thing about light: no matter how deep the darkness, even a small candle defeats it. So let us shine as lights to the world, and thus truly become sons and daughters of the Light … striving toward ever greater charity, care and consideration for all. And let us take an excerpt from Sir Edwin Arnold to heart as a renewed call to fraternity:

We are they who will not take

   From palace, priest, or code,

A lesser Law than “Brotherhood”—

   A lower Lord than God.