At our awards ceremony at Fordham, Fr. Greg Boyle talked much on kinship, the idea that we’re all brothers and sisters and therefore responsible to and for one another.

Fr. Greg is able to transmit that idea to the gang members he works with and it helps in getting them end their violence against one another. One cannot shoot their brother.

Kinship runs quite deep, if we only choose to embrace it. Could we look that deeply into someone else’s eyes and not see merely them, but Jesus? Could we live in a world that stops labeling but instead looks towards one another with a sense of responsibility, especially when one of our own is destitute?

The truth is that we don’t do kinship very well as a society. We often take care of our immediate families first and If we get around to it, then we care for others in need. After all, they’re not MY responsibility.

This coming weekend Jesus challenges the Pharisees to do exactly that. You see, I think we’re a lot like the Pharisees. We place “heavy burdens” on people that are impossible for them to overcome. Fr. Greg talks about gang members that are labelled “good for nothings” and once they believe that then all is nearly lost for them until someone like him comes along and gets them to believe in their own self-worth again.

And for that matter, the worth of those around them.

I know I label people sometimes…especially these days when we often place people in categories to protect ourselves. “Well, she’s a fundamentalist…so I know who she is. And don’t want to associate with her, because it’s just too hard.” Or, “My mother will just say X if I tell her Y. So I’ll just avoid the issue altogether.”

Perhaps a good rule to live by is “Assume nothing.” Keeping the conversation and our charity as open as possible gives another the chance to respond as they see fit. Giving them the freedom to do so, is our choice and responding as we see fit gives us the opportunity not to defend ourselves, but to allow others to see our perspective.

I know…that’s easier said, than done. And we have to guard ourselves against being a doormat-person.

The Catholic Volunteers last year were always teaching me new things. When it came to community, they truly lived it despite the struggle to do so. Their key was to drop how thought things SHOULD be and to accept things as they are. They assumed nothing and responded with great freedom to one another. In doing so, they even learned much about themselves and helped me discover some new things about me too.

One particular volunteer, Anna and I are similar in that we both don’t like it when someone is mad at us or when someone doesn’t like us. When people in community didn’t see things eye-to-eye, especially early, Anna would be upset when the rift would hit the community. I know I’m the same way in relationships–with my wife, with my co-workers, family and friends. Harmony is often far more important than a divided excellence to me. One good project that everyone does together is far better than 12 half-hearted ones that someone does on their own. The boundaries often go up because we get too scared to let someone else in, for fear that they’ll take credit or uncover something about us that we don’t want them to know. Risking our own vulnerability and comfort often takes courage.

Or because we think they won’t like us anymore. Could we dare to let go of that crutch and live just a bit more radically?

So how would it look if we were to do this? A good example comes from a friend would offer living space to people who he knew needed a cheap place to stay regardless of their status. One time he got robbed by someone who took advantage of him. Colleagues thought his generosity would now be more limited. But he would have none of it. “If I’m going to have to be so careful about what I do that someone DOESN’T take advantage of me once in awhile, then I’m probably not living the gospel.” was his most famous response.

And so it is with us. How might we NOT be careful to the point where we can offer our lives as a free gift to those around us?

If we do, we just might be Christians.