Even today God asks us to be “guardians” of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord.
If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” (Populorum Progressio, 66).
Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, yet there is a real need to reaffirm that good does exist and will prevail, because God is “generous and acts generously” (Ps 119:68). The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands. Concern for others means being aware of their needs.
2012 Lenten Message of Pope Benedict XVI
Reflection – The quote from Populorum Progressio is really the money quote here. What ails society is not the ravenous power of multi-national corporations; it is not the destruction of the environment; it is not, even, the depredations and misdeeds of governments. All of these are harmful, but none of them is the real problem.
The real problem is the weakening of ties between individuals and nations. The real problem is that we do not love each other the way we should. The way we must, really—the world is in deep trouble, as we all know.
So the Pope is calling for a radical thing here. It’s not just a matter of contributing to this charity or participating in that social cause. These have their place, but it’s really a matter of how I treat every human being who crosses my path.
I am passionately pro-life, and consider legal abortion to be the greatest evil facing us right now. But if I, in my pro-life passion, treat another human being badly, if I come back from the March for Life and cold-shoulder, ignore, despise, use another human being, what good are my passionate pro-life convictions?
The whole evil of abortion is the denial of the humanity of the fetus. So if I treat you as anything less than a human being, if I reduce you to an object who is either serving my wants and needs or is in my way, then I am just as much in the culture of death as anyone.
In Madonna House, flawed human beings as we are, this really is our fundamental orientation. To treat every human being who enters our doors as, first, a human being. To honour the dignity of each one, and at least try to serve his or her needs—this is our fundamental apostolate. And we have seen countless people restored to life and dignity through this simple way of loving.
This is what the world needs. We need to love one another. We need to treat every human being as if they are the most important person in the world, simply because they are the one who is with us now. This is what will transform our society and heal the wounds of the world. I don’t really think anything else will, in the long run.