|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at email@example.com.
You Are My Brother or Sister
The nurse escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bedside of an elderly patient. “Your son is here,” the nurse whispered into the ear of the dying man. She had to repeat the words several times before his tired eyes opened. He was heavily sedated and he struggled to breathe through the oxygen clip. He could barely see the young man standing beside his bed; he simply reached out his hand and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing it with tenderness and assurance. The nurse brought a chair for the young man. For the rest of the night he sat by the old man’s bed, holding his hand and gently stroking his forehead. The old man said nothing.
As dawn broke, the old man died. The young man gently released the lifeless hand he had been holding all night and went to notify the nurse. The young man waited until the nurse completed the necessary tasks. The nurse began to offer the young man her condolences, but he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked the nurse. The startled nurse said, “I thought he was your father.” “No, he wasn’t. I never saw him before tonight.” Then she asked, “Why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” The young man said quietly, “I knew he needed his son, and obviously his son wasn’t here. My own father just died, and I understand what he and his son must have been going through. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me for those last few hours.”1
The kingdom of God that Jesus refers to transcends labels, stereotypes and traditions. In God’s eyes, we are all his children. In God’s heart, we are all brothers and sisters to one another. The young man in story embraced that vision of Christ and acted as the “son” to the old dying man. We all have the choice in how we act each day and we can choose to act according to God’s vision. That it is not so easy to do.
In the first reading from Genesis, we hear how Adam was influenced by Eve in committing evil and how Eve, in turn, was influenced by the serpent. The story of the fall of humanity testifies to the fact that we, human beings, were created by God as free agents. We are capable of good and glorious acts and yet also capable of evil and wicked acts. The choice is ours.
If we are honest, we are easily influenced by others in our decisions. We often listen to others in our lives and turn away from God. We have the choice to do good or to do evil (or fail to do good). May we open our eyes to the needs of others and choose to act according to God’s vision. May we treat others as our brothers and sisters.
(Endnotes) 1 “Connections” (Mediaworks, Londonderry, NH: February, 2005)