Grace to you!
During the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa in Rome in 1994, the then Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria, Most Reverend Albert Obiefuna, made an intervention that got the media flocking around him for more elaboration.
He quoted a famous African saying: “Blood is thicker than water” and added “But the water of Baptism is thicker than blood.” Blood is thicker than water means that relationship by blood (close family relationships) is stronger than any bond whatsoever. However, by the latter—water of baptism is thicker than blood—he meant that the bond of Christian relationship, which comes through Baptism, is a stronger bond than mere blood relations.
This profound thought is consistent with biblical teachings. While all peoples are related to one another because we are traced back to one common origin (Gen 1:26-28), those who are baptized into Christ share an even greater bond because they are covenanted in Christ. Hence they are called brethren. In Baptism, we are joined as one in Christ (Rm 6:3).
Saint Paul, writing about believers, will often call them brethren, brothers (and sisters). In addition to being of one stock of humanity, traceable to one origin irrespective of our color and creed, Christians are uniquely bonded in Christ through our faith and baptism in him.
For us Catholics, this is much more vivid as we participate in one bread and one chalice, the great Passover of the Lamb, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the unique sharing in the body and blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One blood, one body consumed from one cup and one plate (ciborium) is a symbol of this our union. Thus, it’s scandalous when believers tear each other apart and live like enemies.
After reminding the young church of Thessalonica of the necessity of sanctification through purity of life, Saint Paul told them he wouldn’t need to remind them of the bond of love that should exist among them as brethren in the Lord Jesus (1 Thes 4:9).
Recall that one of the parting messages of our Lord to the disciples regards the sign through which others may believe: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). He capped it up with his priestly prayer to His Father in John 17, “That they be one,” pointing out that that this will be the sign for others to believe (Jn 17:21).
This message stirred my heart in a unique way today as I reflect on my Christians life; particularly in dealing with my fellow believers, especially those whose lifestyle seems incompatible with mine. Even if I don’t like them and their attitudes, may I remember that, afterall, we are family in the one family of God. May I also remember that wherever hate and division is, the glory of God is diminished.
What need I to do today to promote unity and love in my community of faith? Do it.
Praying that God will give us the grace to love one another as brethren.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 21 Ordinary Time A: 1 Thes 4:9-11; Mt 25:14-30]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.