Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My brother's keeper

"The person is defined in terms of freedom, hence in terms of responsibility also: responsibility to other persons, responsibility for other persons. To put it in concrete terms, the Christian is not only one who seeks the expansion and development of his own individuality and the satisfaction of his most legitimate natural needs but one who recognizes himself responsible for the good of others, for their own temporal fulfilment, and ultimately for their eternal salvation. Hence, the Christian person reaches maturity with the realization that each one of us is indeed his "brother's keeper," and that if men are suffering and dying in Asia or Africa, other men in Europe and America are summoned to self-judgement before the bar of conscience to see whether, in fact, some choice or neglect on their own part has had a part in this suffering and this dying, which otherwise may seem so strange and remote. For today the whole world is bound tightly together by economic, cultural and sociological ties which make us all, to some extent, responsible for what happens to others on the far side of the earth. Man is now not only a social being; his social nature transcends national and regional limits, and whether we like it or not, we must think in terms of one human family, one world."

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979: 152-153

This is so central to being a Christian, it seems to me. With the current attention to global warming, and other ecological factors, what we have known spiritually for so many centuries is becoming unarguable scientific fact. In fact it rather amuses me, in a grim kind of a way very often, how, as science grows ever more sophisticated it proves, rather than disproving, things that had been known spiritually for long years before the idea of "science" as a discipline in itself ever came to be!

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