My Brother’s Keeper?

This morning I read an article about Bishop Gregory Mansour, the Maronite bishop of Brooklyn. I once helped him with writing a religious series for Maronite children. I knew him to be a kind, humble man. The article revealed his love for people. As the bishop walked down the street, he saw a man who had fallen and was coughing. Instinctively Bishop Mansour went to the sick man although passersby were yelling at him to keep away. The bishop stayed with the man until an ambulance came. A week later the bishop came down with COVID-19.

We are all familiar with the story of Cain and Abel. After Cain slew his brother, the Lord asks, “Where is your brother,” and Cain sassily replies, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course, we know that the answer to this question is a resounding Yes. In case our heart doesn’t tell us this, Jesus made it a command: Love one another as you love yourself.

During this time of our modern plague, countless people have been stepping up to “keep” their brothers and sisters. You have seen them on the news and perhaps have benefited from their selfless generosity yourself. Some of them have cared by donating goods, making masks, and entertaining the homebound among other things. Many have risked their lives (and those of their loved ones) by directly caring for the sick. Of these selfless souls, a good number of them have died as a result.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). How many people this year have laid down their life for complete strangers! Of course, Jesus was referring to himself. A few weeks ago we commemorated Good Friday, when he, our Brother, died for us so that we would be spared eternal death.

In various ways we express our appreciation to the very good samaritans who are caring for their brothers and sisters in our human family. People are holding up signs saying “thank you.” Planes are flying overhead as a tribute. Nothing, however, will ever be enough. Similarly, how can we ever repay the Lord for his goodness to us?

One thing I’ve thought of: Most of us have been quarantined for six weeks now. (“How long, O Lord?” [Psalm 13] ) This has entailed a number of hardships: working at home, homeschooling, being deprived of the Eucharist, being isolated from other people, and not being able to go to parties, games, and concerts, to name a few. (I can’t go to my office and keep thinking of things I should have brought with me!) As Catholics we believe that we can make our suffering redemptive. We can unite it with Christ’s suffering and offer it for different people and causes. This was brought home to me when Sister Kristen Mary was dying and asked me if the Church still taught this. After doing research, I told her Yes. She said, “Today I offer my suffering for you.”

So, besides praying for people, we can offer our suffering and inconveniences for them.

I’m wearing a mask donated by a woman who sewed them for us. Who has helped you during this crisis? How have you helped someone?

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