Alex Coccia | Monday, April 11, 2011
“Ayecha” or “Where are you?” was the first question asked in the Bible. Seemingly, it should be a question from Adam: “Where are you, my God? What am I doing here? Where am I?” Instead, however, God asked the question. Did God not know where Adam was? God knew; Adam did not. Adam needed the question to bring him to understand where he was, not physically, but in relation to God. The question “Where are you?” is a humbling one, and one that we should ask ourselves on a regular basis. It can be used to assess where we stand in relation to our God, our faith, our country, our school, our work, our family, our friends or ourselves. The concept of sacrifice is pivotal and instrumental in the attempt to understand where we are. The most valuable possession we own is our time, and when we decide to give our time to someone other than ourselves, it is easier to reflect upon these relationships and to really know where we are.
Lenten sacrifice is an important way for Catholics to become grounded in their understanding of where they stand in their faith. The sacrifice symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the cross and absolving the sins of the world. The sacrifice they make during Lent is a reminder of the greater picture.
Sacrifice, however, is not for God: It must be for others first, God second. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). Even Jesus places himself after others. Our commitment to others grounds us in the world we call home. Another question asked in the Bible is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is undeniably, “yes,” but the dilemma is whether or not we show we are by our actions. For those who believe in God, sacrifice brings them closer to Him through others, grounding believers in their faith. However, for both those who do believe in a god and for those who do not, sacrifice brings them to a better understanding of themselves and their relationship to others. For both, the call to their brothers and sisters is the same. In answering the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” we should respond with a resounding, “Yes!” “I do not believe you,” the skeptic will say. “Then I shall show you,” we respond.
One of the reasons sacrifice for others grounds us in our world and our understanding of ourselves is due to the fact that no one ever explicitly asks us, “Are you your brother’s keeper?” When we ask ourselves this question and when we answer it with our actions, we are silently and humbly becoming closer to those around us — humble before our God, humble before our fellow brothers and sisters. The similarity between those who believe in God and those who do not comes in the dedication to others. We find ourselves in others. If there is ever a time to believe that God does not exist, it is the moment that we see the suffering in the world and we must believe that we are the only ones who can help, who will bring change for the better. In those moments, the sacrifices we make fulfill our moral obligation as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. So sacrifice can be spiritual, but it is also practical and humanizing.
Combining the aspects of sacrifice and grounding leaves us with the question “Where am I?” and the answer “I am my brother’s keeper.” For where-we-are and who-we-are so closely connect in all aspects of our lives — our relationships with ourselves, our brothers and sisters and our god of our understanding. Who we are determines where we are. Acting as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers establishes us as those who when asked “Ayecha?” can answer completely, in truth to ourselves, in the midst of others, and under the beauty of heaven.
Alex Coccia is a freshman. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.