Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Reason for Loving One Another

Writing in the Peace Weekly, a professor at the Catholic University tells us why we should love. She begins her column with the story of a student, a young girl, who telephoned her to know why they don't have programs dealing with suicide like they have for sex education. Some students have thoughts of suicide, the student said, because of constant bullying at school, sometimes involving violence. 

We relate well with our friends, but there are always some who pick out others to bully and hurt. What is the fundamental error here?  It is a failure to appreciate the value of life. The culture of life is inseparable from the problems we face.

Seeing the death of another we often reflect on our own impending death, and it's not something we accept easily. Life at these times seems so fleeting and meaningless. She refers to a few incidents in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich  to make her point. When a worker heard that a fellow worker had died, the only thought that came to him was his advancement in the company. And when he died his wife asked the friend of her husband what she needed to do to receive more money from the government.

Tolstoy shows us starkly how cold and callous we can be in dealing with one another. Ivan lived an artificial life, but thought he was living the good life. Just before he died, he could see himself as he truly was, and this enabled him to forgive and love.

The professor believes that city people rarely feel interested in others. Being so absorbed in their work, they are accustomed to the isolated life, often carrying this attitude home where they do not easily share their thoughts with their loved ones.

How do we Christians live? Do we look kindly or suspiciously on the people we see on the street? How do we react with those we know? Do we share with others in their joys and sorrows? Even though in the present we may not be faced with death, the time will come. The death that will enter our lives is the reason, the professor believes, that we should love one another. Our life is often seen as being separate from the lives of others, and that we are basically alone in the world. This thinking predisposes us to forget that we are part of the human family.

In the presence of death--our own or others--we can react with hostility and anger or with calm acceptance. And when facing the death of a loved one, we can, as some have done, help them to carry their cross and open their hearts to those around them. In silence, we can be with them in their time of suffering.

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