“Since man is God’s ‘image,’ in a certain way he reflects God, who in His depths is not alone but triune (and thus life, love, dialogue, and exchange.)” -YouCat 321
“All men are equal in God’s sight insofar as all have the same Creator, all were created in the same image of God with a rational soul, and all have the same redeemer.” -YouCat 330
To come into this world means to be born into a family, in a community. We experience a certain dependence on others from those earliest moments of life – that time when we cannot even hold up our own head without someone else’s help. As we grow, our need for community grows from only parents to teachers and classmates alongside whom we discover the world. In the classroom, on the playground, and in the ordinary moments of each day friendships are forged and adventures lived – and some are lucky enough to have these childhood friends last a lifetime.
But human relationships go beyond just those for whom we feel varying degrees of love and affection – we also have a duty to care for those we don’t know, and those we don’t feel the same degree of love for (or any love at all.) We are to see others the same dignity we carry in ourselves, meaning that we have a responsibility to care for each of them. We see this kind of care in the ministry of Jesus, who both identified Himself with the poor and put our care for them as one of the criteria by which we are to be judged:
“As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” -Matthew 25:40
To put it simply: to care for the needs of others is not an optional part of a healthy Christian life. Fr. Robert Barron writes that “No one in the Bible is ever given an experience of God without being sent on a mission to do the work of God.” If we have a relationship with Jesus, we are also called to do something to better the world around us. This can be as simple to the contributions people make to worthy causes like cancer research or Goodwill, taking time to donate blood, or volunteering with any one of numerous community groups who work for the good of others. It can include efforts to promote and support laws which defend those who are most at risk. But it isn’t just about doing the little things that are comfortable… God calls some to a radical demonstration of love to those in need. For example, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) took this message to heart and dedicated her life to loving the poorest of the poor, work which is carried on throughout the world by the Missionaries of Charity (a religious order of others who felt called to do the same.)
The point is that we need to do something. I once heard a story of a well-meaning Christian who walked by a homeless person, and then lamented to God that such a tragic situation could be allowed. He complained: how could a loving God not do something about this! God’s answer to this complaint is telling: “I did do something. I made you.” It is for this reason that the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) is explained to us in two parts – to love God and to love neighbor. As people who follow Christ, these are the two questions on our final exam- essentially asking whether we did our best to grow closer to God, and to care for those around us. This is our responsibility – our response to the dignity we are meant to see in those around us.
“No one can claim, as Cain did, that he is not responsible for the fate of his brother.” -Bl. John Paul II