"Love and Responsibility"
“Am I my brother’s (sister’s) keeper?” Cain’s response to God when he asked him about his brother Abel (cf. Genesis chapter 4). In this rapidly growing culture of individualism and “mind your own business”, and the extreme sense of self-entitlement and the obsession of “my rights”, I suspect the true essence of responsibility is also losing its sense to many of us. We seemed to redefine so many things today to suit our selfish desires. Love and responsibility are losing its grounds in our value system. This is not new, however. The revelation in the Scriptures is always challenging human beings’ greed and lack of concern for others. Prophets were chosen and sent to remind people to exercise right relationships with God and with one another. Surprisingly, in the first reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9), this “son of man” is even being held responsible for the death of his erring brothers and sisters if he does not dissuade and correct them. What a big responsibility entrusted by God to him!
Emmanuel Levinas, a Jewish philosopher wrote an excellent treaty on responsibility. He puts on the vulnerability of the “face” as a point of reference why everyone should be responsible to each other. When we look at straight to each other’s face we are confronted by its nakedness and vulnerability and immediately demands responsibility from us. It makes me wonder when we just look at each other superficially, if authentic love and responsibility would take its roots in our relationships with one another. For a community to grow in unity and harmony, to have a deep experience with all the goodness and the beauty of humanity we all need to be responsible to one another. It’s not enough that we are just responsible for our own actions, we are responsible for the good of another person. This is Christian love deeply rooted in the life of Jesus Christ.
In the second reading (Romans 13:8-10) St. Paul declares that Christians have the primary obligation to love as the fulfilment of the law. This is not love based on “emotionalism” where we love when we feel like loving. This is a commitment we do for the sake of the good of others. Thus, he spells out objectively the commandments as also the expression of love- no to killing, adultery, stealing, etc. The positive statement is “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This reminds us also of the golden rule: “Do unto to others what you want others do to you,” or “Do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you.” This should be a great heritage of humanity. But we find ourselves at times the contrary. In love, we do no harm to others. This is a Christian imperative, whether we like it or not, we should love.
In the Gospel narrative (Matthew 18:15-20), Jesus points out the way of responsibility and love in the process of fraternal correction. In view of this, Christians have the obligation to help each other grow in loving one another by not tolerating in communities, deeds and behaviours that are harmful to others. Jesus, however, proposed a certain process of dialogue that could help us achieve the essence of love and responsibility. In the true spirit of love, have a dialogue with one another, and if necessary ask help for guidance and enlightenment. With this in mind and heart, there would be a way to sort things when conflict arises. Those who love have always the desire to be reconciled with others. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the time and place where Jesus, by giving himself as a sacrifice for the sake of love, teaches us the ultimate meaning of love and responsibility.
(Fr Regie, MSP)