What if we started living as brothers and sisters?
This is the question that echoes around the globe in the wake of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq last weekend.
The pope met with Christians whose family members were massacred by ISIS. The pope dialogued with Muslim leaders. The pope called for the end of violence and extremism. On the plains where Abraham was born, the pope proclaimed: "Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity."
The question for us is: what can I do to be a brother or a sister, especially to those who are different from me and those in need? Each one of our efforts counts towards a better, more fraternal world. Even our small actions have a ripple effect that reverberates beyond what we can see or imagine. How we treat someone will affect not only how they treat us but how they will treat someone else.
It is so easy in this time of pandemic to simply stay on the couch or cooped up in our homes and wait for things to change before starting to act. Instead, Pope Francis sets us an example by his determination to go to one of the most conflict-laden regions of the world amid this global crisis to bring a message of peace, fraternity, and care. As Saint Paul wrote to the first Christians: "Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). To put it in today's words, there's no time like the present!
Here and now each one of us can sow seeds towards a harvest of solidarity. We are precious cogs in the revolution of fraternity. If we do not act, we become rusty, slowing down future momentum. Our contribution is vital! Together we can build a civilization of love that unites us as brothers and sisters in the one human family. Our challenge is simple: take the next step. What can we do today, without waiting for tomorrow?
Who do I know that might appreciate a phone call? As spring arrives, to whom could I offer a socially-distanced outdoor visit? How can I support non-profit organizations that serve the most fragile of our brothers and sisters in this time of crisis? How about giving the money we save from our fasting this Lent so that others' basic needs can be better met? How about sending someone a card or letter to tell them I'm thinking of them and praying for them? How can I show kindness at the grocery store or in public in a way that is visible beyond my mask?
There are also significant ways of being a brother or sister that we may not often consider. We can be fraternal with those we do not see. For example, buying certain products that pay farmers and factory workers equitably instead of simply going for the cheapest price. Likewise, caring for the planet is a way of being a brother or sister to future generations: buying seasonal and local fruits and vegetables; walking, biking, or taking public transit rather than taking the car; repairing a broken item instead of automatically buying a new one. Taking better care of our planet extends our brotherly concern far into the future. All of this builds a more just, fraternal world that leads us towards God's Kingdom.
Now is the time to break out of the frost of our COVID hibernation to walk together towards a new springtime of treating each other as brothers and sisters. This revolution of fraternity needs each one of us. Let us go forward living together as one family.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.