The New Year:
We Are Our Brother's Keeper
by Catherine Doherty
I keep thinking and meditating on the New Year, and thinking about the world in general; it kind of haunts me.
God hands us a shiny beautiful New Year. That is to say, he gives us time. I wondered: what are we going to do with this time? To each one of us God has given time—time to love him. Itis strange that in the Christian countries the New Year comes at the time right after Christ's birth.
Stop and think of the Incarnation (Christ God becoming man), which leads to his crucifixion, which leads to his resurrection, all wrapped up in a little package of this Child—a crib in a stable. And then, as if the Child himself handed it over, he turns to me and to you and he says, "Here is a new year, shiny, coming from my hands. What are you going to do with it?"
The greatest thing we can do is to love. There is nothing else that matters, really. So why don't we begin? Many of us already love our neighbour, love ourselves and our neighbour, but we have to extend that love.
Time really does not exist. I come from the mind of God—he had me there from all eternity, and I go to the Way (who is Christ) to the heart of God; and the Holy Spirit helps me to keep on the narrow path, the Way that Christ says he himself is.
When we talk Christianity or Christ to one another, whoever we are, wherever we are on the threshold of the New Year, something has to break into our hearts. Our Lord enlarges our heart, if we desire to enlarge it, to love more and more and more.
Will our love end in crucifixion? It's obvious that when you and I totally forget the pronoun 'I', then we are crucified; and those who are crucified are free. This is a strange and mysterious thing. It's one of the mysteries that God puts into our hearts.
If we agree to go to Golgotha, a little hill on which he was crucified, there is another side to the crucifix. Immediately the crucifix ceases to really be a crucifix as we understand it—that is to say, pain and all the rest of it-and it becomes a joy. In a sense, we can wish everyone a joyful New Year—provided we have opened our heart to Joy; we have mounted Golgotha; we have agreed to be crucified with Christ; and by doing so we have entered into his Resurrection.
By entering into his Resurrection, we have suddenly found ourselves totally free—free from all the things that affected us only yesterday. Free to love everyone, including our enemies. Free to lay down our lives for our fellowman.
This all sounds highfaluting, big ideas, but in everyday life, it is simplicity itself. Never think of yourself, day in and day out. You have to do an unpleasant job, but you do it joyfully, because whatever you do, you do for God. Joy lifts us up and makes us run toward whatever task is given to us; to what we call "the duty of the moment".
The mother gets up, and the father, to nurse the baby and quiet it at night, but it goes a little further. It may go to a little neighboring child who cries. I lived in Chicago, on West Walton Place, which had been cut up into little apartments; we had a little apartment and one was above us. You could hear what happened. One evening, lying there and not sleeping very well, I kept hearing the patter of young feet and I knew that only a mother with her child lived up there. The child was about eleven or twelve. I met her going to school. Something worried me about this patter of feet. I got up and went upstairs and knocked at the door and said, "It's the lady from downstairs". "Oh," she said, "I'm so glad it's you", and she opened the door. "I don't know what's happened to my mother. I don't know what to do. She doesn't wake up." Well, her mother was dead!
Love is a strange thing. The patter of little feet. The cry of a child. The cough of an old person or a young one can disturb us, and should disturb us, and we should say, "Oh, I am responsible for everyone." Dorothy Day, one of the great American saints-to-be, wrote in her Catholic Worker why we should not buy grapefruits (this was in the Depression) because the people who gathered grapefruits received such a small salary that they could not live on it. I am responsible. Do you realize that this beautiful New Year that God has put into your hands means that you are your brother's keeper, and so am I?
It's deep stuff; it's bottomless, because it means that God is saying, "Enter my heart. It is in this heart of mine that you will know how to live out this beautiful year that I have given you 'to have and to hold'.
So let us be our brother's keeper; and let us not forget that Christ is our Brother too. Not only in everyone, but in himself. And if we really want to learn how to love, we should go into his heart this year.
– from a spiritual reading, Dec. 29, 1976.
Catherine Doherty (1896-1985), born in Russia, was foundress of Madonna House and a prolific writer and teacher. Her passionate zeal impelled her to pass on her faith in God, and she is now being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.