Pope at Audience: We are our brother’s keeper
(Vatican Radio) In families, we learn how to be good brothers and sisters; what we learn at home then becomes a source of enrichment for society as a whole, said Pope Francis Wednesday during the general audience as he continued his series of lessons on the family.
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis
Dear brothers and sisters,
in our journey of catechesis on the family, after considering the role of mother, father, children, today it is the turn of brothers and sisters. “Brother,” “sister” are words that Christianity loves very much. And, thanks to the family experience, they are words that all cultures and all ages understand.
The fraternal bond has a special place in the history of the People of God, which receives its revelation in the living human experience. The psalmist sings of the beauty of the fraternal bond “How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” (Ps 132,1). This is true; being brothers and sisters is beautiful. Jesus Christ brought even this human experience of being brothers and sisters to fulfillment, assimilating it into Trinitarian love and strengthening it so that it goes well beyond the ties of kinship and is capable of overcoming every obstacle of estrangement.
We know that when the fraternal relationship is ruined, when it is ruined, this opens the path to painful experiences of conflict, betrayal, hatred. The biblical story of Cain and Abel is an example of this negative result. After the murder of Abel, God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gen 4,9a). It is a question that the Lord continues to repeat to every generation. And unfortunately, in every generation, the Cain’s dramatic response continues to be repeated: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”(Gen 4,9b).
When the bond between brothers is broken, it leads to something that is truly ugly, that is bad for humanity. Even in families how many brothers and sisters have fought even over little things…over an inheritance… then they stop speaking to each other, they no longer greet each other…this is an awful thing. Brotherhood is such a great thing. Just think, brothers and sisters, they all dwelt in the womb of the same mother for nine months, they come from their mother’s flesh. We cannot break the bonds of brotherhood. We all know families where brothers and sisters are divided; where they have fallen out, maybe in our own families we have cases like these. Let’s ask the Lord to help us to reunite these families, to rebuild these families. The bonds of brotherhood should not be broken, because when they are broken, things happen like with Cain and Abel, when the Lord asks Cain, he responds I am not my brother’s keeper, this is awful, really terrible to hear.
The bond of brotherhood that is formed between the children in the family, if it takes place in a climate of an education open to others, is the great school of freedom and peace. Maybe we are not always aware of this, but it is the family that introduces brotherhood into the world! From this first experience of brotherhood, nourished by affection and by family education, style of fraternity radiates like a promise throughout society and relations between peoples.
The blessing that God, in Jesus Christ, poured out on this bond of brotherhood expands it in a way unimaginable, enabling it to overcome all differences of nationhood, language, culture and even religion.
Just think of what this bond between men, even very different from each other, becomes when they can say to another: “He is like a brother to me, she is like a sister to me”! This is beautiful! History has shown enough, moreover, that freedom and equality, without brotherhood, become full of individualism and conformity and personal interest too.
Brotherhood in the family is particularly illuminating when we see the care, patience, affection with which the weaker, sick, or disabled brother or sister are surrounded. World over there are many brothers and sisters who do this, and maybe we do not appreciate their generosity enough. And when there are many brothers and sisters in a family…today I greeted a family here who has nine children…the oldest helps the mother and father to take care of the younger ones, this work of helping each other as brothers and sisters, this is beautiful ….
Having a brother, a sister who loves you is a powerful, priceless, irreplaceable experience. Christian brotherhood happens in the same way. The little ones, the weak, the poor must provoke our tenderness: They have the “right” to in our heart and soul. Yes, they are our brothers and sisters and we love them and treat them as such. When this happens, when the poor are like a part of our family, our own Christian brotherhood comes back to life. Christians, in fact, go out to the poor and weak not in obedience to an ideological agenda, but because the word and example of the Lord tell us we are all brothers and sisters. This is the principle of love of God and of all justice among men.
I would like to suggest something before finishing, let us think in silence of our brothers and sisters; in the silence of our hearts let us pray for them…a moment of silence [pause]. With this prayer we have brought all of our brothers and sisters here in our hearts to this square for a blessing. Thank you.
Today more than ever it is necessary to bring brotherhood back to the heart of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: Only then will freedom and equality take on the correct intonation. Therefore, we must not deprive ourselves or our families in a light-minded manner, out of subjection or fear, of the beautiful of a wide-ranging fraternal experience of sons and daughters. And we must not lose our confidence in the breadth of horizons that faith is able to draw from this experience, illuminated by God’s blessing.