“Brothers and sisters,” how many times have we heard that during Mass? Have we heard it so much that we no longer grasp the full meaning of those titles?
Addressing a Christian community as brothers and sisters is not a recent trend. It goes back to the earliest days, and is evidenced in Paul’s writings. In some letters, he even repeats it more than once. It is a way to equalize all before God since we are all His children. The writer or speaker is putting himself on the same level as his audience. It’s also a way to help us recognize that we should love everyone, as we are all one family. The tradition continues today; most letters from a bishop to the members of his diocese start in that same fraternal way.
At Mass we hear these words in the Penitential Act when we say, “ I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters…” We actually refer to the members of the congregation as our family members. We are reminded again as the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins and the celebrant urges us: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”
We claim our familial bond with God through the person of Jesus, His Son. Since we are children of God and Jesus is God’s Son, that would make Him our brother, correct? Have you ever considered Jesus as your brother? When we acknowledge Him that way, He recognizes and validates our relationship with God. As we receive him in the Eucharist, He is even more present in our lives.
I’ve heard it said that we cannot merit heaven by our own actions, and if we were to stand before God and be weighed on the scale of justice, we would be found lacking. But when Jesus stands on the scale beside us, His merits far surpass our deficiencies. Can you imagine standing before God and having Jesus right next you, pleading for your entry into heaven? When I think of it that way, I want to participate more fully in the family of God.
So, my brothers and sisters, the next time you hear yourselves addressed that way, I hope you take a moment to reflect on deep meaning those words convey regarding your relationship with God and with each other.