When was the last time we considered how well we relate to the members of our family? In particular, how compatible are we with our brothers and sisters? Are we close, available only in emergencies, or begrudgingly exchanging Christmas cards with our siblings? Does the following narrative mirror our development with them in any way? Why or why not?
Harold Morgan grinned with delight as he tore the July page off his wall calendar to reveal the fact that August had finally arrived. This was the last summer before beginning his graduation year of high school. He was already planning ahead and looking forward to sending out applications, searching for scholarships and, above all, moving into a world of adventure, excitement and freedom that would come with living on a college campus, far from parental supervision and sibling rivalry.
In a few weeks he would be parading around Gable Prep as an all-knowing, top-of-the-food-chain senior. And with those savory thoughts in mind he sprinted downstairs to the kitchen and began slathering the homemade pancakes on his breakfast plate with mountains of butter and oceans of maple syrup. His mom loved to cook, and she was tantalizingly good at it. Dad’s typical contribution to the family meal was ensuring peaceful coexistence by quelling the heated exchanges that often arose among the four children.
Max was two years younger than Harold and equally anxious for his older brother to move away so he could lay claim to their shared room as his solitary castle. Since birth, the family’s 13-year-old twins, Mary and Molly, always got along well with each other but never with anyone else. And now that they were blossoming adolescents their private language—a common phenomenon for pairs—was apparently taking on innuendoes of a suggestive nature that elicited smirks and giggles between the two of them, much to the chagrin and annoyance of everyone around them.
So, when mother announced that Harold had signed up for the home ec class she would be teaching in September the twins whispered code words to each other, chided Harold for enrolling in a “Minnie” Mouse course and then exploded into gales of laughter when his face turned red. Not to be outdone in the bantering, Max added that any guy sitting in a room being taught by his mommy is in for serious scorn from the other kids in the class. Without looking up from his morning paper dad muzzled the attacks with his two-word truce, “That’s enough.”
But Harold stood proudly by his decision to register for his mother’s domestic offering. He reminded the three scoffers that their mom could win bake-off contests if she wanted to. He said he would be grateful to learn how to prepare nutritious meals rather than microwaveable prepackaged preservatives. Plus, he had no desire to join the “Freshman Fifteen” crowd at the university. He had heard that the members of entrance classes typically gain 15 pounds before Thanksgiving since they can hardly boil water. They pack on unwanted pounds because they are limited to an unhealthy diet of consuming Pop-Tarts, Ramen noodles and chugging Red Bull as a mixer. Mom blushed a proud grin while adding four more seven-grain hotcakes to the breakfast platter.
Two thousand years ago, St. Paul wrote some very strong words for our fledgling Church highlighting behaviors that should set Christians apart from everyone else. In fact, he urged the faithful to act like brothers and sisters toward one another. Some virtues in the sibling relationship he espoused included being peaceful, gentle, hospitable, merciful, forgiving, truthful, humble, outdoing each other in showing honor, resolving disputes outside of court, being financially supportive rather than imposing on one another, and being obedient to parents and authority figures.
The Morgan siblings may characterize some modern family exchanges, but their dialogue is far from the “Spirit” of Christ that Paul expected. Charity, kindness and unity was to begin at home, continue into the church community and then spill over into how non-believers should be treated.
Holy Homework: Let’s take a moment to examine our relationships with brothers and sisters, our parish community and complete strangers. If we had to choose one word that summarizes our relationship with a sibling what would it be? How closely does this word complement Paul’s list of directives? When was the last time we contacted a living family member to ask how they are doing or offered a prayer for a family member who has died? Can we do this today?
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