It’s that we have forgotten we belong to one another.
When my identical twins were born, I worried a lot about how I would tell them apart. I read a whole bunch of ideas on Pinterest and the like for just this thing. I finally settled on painting one twin’s toenail green. Poor kid. But it worked… until they could reach down and stuff their feet in their mouths anyway.
I was so worried I would mix them up.
It was not long, however, until they started to have very distinctive personalities. And now, even if it is just after bath time or they are dressed alike (which is rare), if they just open their mouths and speak… I instantly know who I am talking to.
Mixing them up was my worry. I also wondered about them, however. I wondered if they would get along and have a tight bond like I had heard was possible. I wondered if they would also be competitive and jealous and fight.
All of these things happened.
My twins are the best of friends, but they can also look like the worst of enemies depending on the day… well, depending on the minute, actually. Recently, they were separated into two classrooms at daycare. It was challenging for me to imagine them apart, but I also realized that without separation, the magnetic force between them would not lessen. And it needed to… for them to let others into their world.
Early Friday morning, on the way to school, they were fighting… as they do. Poking each other and alternatively saying “Moooommm…. He’s bothering me.” or “Moomm…. He just called me a poopy diaper.” Then, however, when we arrived at school and had a little extra time in the car, their attitude changed. “Hey, Milo… why don’t you show mommy what we learned in Ms. Chyrstine’s class?” Ollie said. “What’d you learn?” I asked them both. “We can sign America the Beautiful,” they responded. I asked them to demonstrate, and they immediately looked at each other for direction. “You start,” one brother said to the other. And then they launched into their rendition of America the Beautiful complete with little arms signing as best they could remember… and looking at each other the whole time saying “Don’t stop, I can not do this alone.”
I found this quote attributed to Mother Teresa a while back, and it has stuck with me: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another.” Sometimes I think it is quite easy for my twins to remember that they belong to one another. They can not help but look into their matching set of brown eyes and see themselves – they have the same DNA afterall. It is much harder to look at a stranger or even an enemy and say “We belong to one another.”
I was reminded last week that a bow signifies for some cultures: “The God in me acknowledges the God in you.” What would it look like if we could in fact look at one another in the eyes and feel so clearly that we do, in fact, belong to one another? What would it feel like if we could look in an enemy’s eyes and see God staring back at us?
This week’s Gospel reading is on loving your enemies. Taking my sons for example, I do not think Jesus means that relationships will be perfect or that disagreements won’t happen. I do not think Jesus is asking for us to agree on everything. Instead, Jesus is asking us to acknowledge the God in one another… Jesus is asking for us to remember that we belong to one another… and above all that we must not do this alone.