Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Pope Francis, in his message for this year’s World Day of Prayer on January 1, wrote:
“Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace. We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.”
Last Sunday night our Diocesan Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs hosted our annual dialogue on peace at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Triangle, and this year we took this quote as our theme. Four women, representing the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Catholic (Sr. Clare Hunter, FSE) faiths, spoke about the values of family, relationship, brokenness, and how our world might, as Pope Francis seems to suggest, apply the same kind of fraternal values to world situations between nations to seek a new kind of tolerance, even forgiveness and reconciliation.
Those who were present not only remarked about the power of the theme, but also the remarkable power of hearing these four women’s voices speaking from the same place, a common value of family, and expressing the same concerns and hopes.
You see, dialogue isn’t so much about all of us trying to be the same. Such an activity would be not only meaningless, but untrue. We are not the same. But as we approach one another and speak honestly what is true, and seek to act in truth, and really listen to what each other has to say, divergences begin emerge.Our commonality becomes clear, despite our diversity and distinctions of culture, race and religion. Such distinctions still exist, but coexist with the greater reality that is shared, and become less reasons for divisions as opportunities to learn, and grow.
Nobody had all the answers—any answers,really—to the big questions of what would a family of nations do to try to reconcile their own? How would one culture approach another in the accepting stance of a kind of adoption?How would an enduring love based in our common humanity and unity be able to overcome the pain of separation and rivalry, of pride and jealousy? At the end of the day, aren’t all the members of the family equal in rank and role? Doesn’t that relationship of brother and sister count for something?
Sometimes when I am in the confessional I hear children always refer to their brothers and sisters as “siblings.” How clinical and impersonal! I always ask them what they mean by that. I am always my brother’s keeper, but I’ve never thought much about being my sibling’s keeper.
Such valued relationships require a new set of considerations. When your brother sins against you you must first go to him and seek to be reconciled, Jesus said. How often do we go directly to the tribunal and seek damages?
There was a great moment when Pope Francis was speaking to a group of Pentecostal pastors in Texas earlier this year. He was telling the Bible story of Joseph and his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, short of killing him. “They came to Egypt to buy food in the middle of a famine,” the Pope relates. And it so happened that their long-lost brother was in charge of the food. “What brought them all back together was hunger. Clearly, they had money, they came to Egypt to buy food.”
All of us have our riches of our cultures and our systems of faith. But, as the Pope adds, “You can’t eat money. It is within the context of the relationship that we are fed.”
God bless you.