By Fr. Roy Cimagala
CHRIST describes for us what true fraternity among ourselves should be. It’s in that gospel episode were Christ told his disciples what they should do when one of them would sin against another. (cfr. Mt 18,15-20)
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone,” he said. “If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact would be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
True fraternity as taught and shown to us by Christ will always be filled with affection, understanding, compassion, patience, etc. It should never be a cold or something like an officious charity. It should always be warm and cordial, despite the inevitable differences and conflicts among ourselves.
But it should never compromise the truth which should also be shown and lived in charity. If need be, to proclaim and defend the truth, we may have to resort to making suggestions and fraternal corrections. But all this should be done without bitter zeal. That is, without charity.
We should see to it we are always mindful and thoughtful of others, learning how to be “all things to all men,” as St. Paul said. (1 Cor 9,19-23) Thus, it pays that we learn the art of listening, empathy, entering into the drama of the lives of others. We have to learn how to be flexible and versatile, resilient in adapting to the different temperaments and personalities of people.
And while we have to be delicate in our dealings with others, we should also cultivate a certain toughness so as to enable us to absorb the unavoidable sacrifices involved in developing true Christian fraternity.
Christian fraternity lives out what St. Paul once suggested. That is, that we should bear one another’s burdens. (cfr. Gal 6,2) In this, we have to learn how to take the initiative, not waiting for things to be forced on us. This may start in very little details like lending a hand in the tasks of others, or visiting and giving a warm accompaniment to a sick person, etc.
Another aspect of Christian fraternity is, again as St. Paul suggested, to regard the others as better than us. “Be humble,” St. Paul said. “Think of the others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Phil 2,3-5
We should have the eagerness to serve the others in the spirit shown by Christ himself when he washed the feet of his apostles. (cfr. Jn 13,1-17) We have to go that extent without thinking that we are doing something great or extraordinary. This should be something ordinary to us.
In a world where relations among people are becoming increasingly toxic, we should provide the happy antidote of living out true Christian fraternity. In this, of course, we should expect to do a lot of self-denial and sacrifices, but these are precisely what Christ told us to do if we want to follow him.
Let’s be thoroughly convinced that by developing this spirit of Christian fraternity, we are actually helping ourselves first in our own spiritual lives. And in that way, we become more effective in radiating far and wide this true spirit of fraternity among ourselves.