The entire drama of human history has been played out between two trees.
First, there is the bad fruit still falling from the one in that garden where the dreadful choice was made to reject the invitation to love.
Then there is the second, planted from heaven itself on Calvary’s Hill, where the living God, in the person of His beloved Son, both paid the price of the sin of the human race and offers us the path to authentic peace through the choice to love as He loves.
The choice that we are Christians are now called to make, at the foot of the Cross, is to be “our brothers keeper” and so much more. Those of us, who would stand under that tree, eat its fruit and respond to the great invitation of Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate, are now called to live “redemptively”- loving even our “enemies.
The disciple John in his first letter to the nascent Christian community provides great insight into solidarity, the mark of Cain and the Christian vocation:
“For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother. Why did he slaughter him? Because his own works were evil, and those of his brother righteous.
Do not be amazed, (then,) brothers, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word ...
The choice of Cain was to reject his very purpose in life - to love his brother and to go beyond that – to recognize that all men and women are “his brother”. In doing so he rejected the human obligation of solidarity.
The mark that he bore he passed on to the entire human race. It was a mark of aimless isolation but also protected him from further harm, so that he could find the path to redemption. This was the only way to undoing the consequences of that dreadful choice of fratricide.
The choices that we make not only affect the world around us –they actually make us. We become what we choose. The way to overcoming the wrong choice of selfishness is selflessness, choosing to love the “other” as another self.
The answer to the fundamental “question” that Cain mockingly posed to the living God is a resounding “Yes”—we are our brothers’ keeper. The God who is love hoped for so much more from His creation. Throughout the unfolding history of His relationship with the human race He would continue to love and to invite, through the giving of the Law, the prophets and the giving of a Covenant.
In the “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4 and 5) God himself would come among us as a man “like us in all things but sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Because He was Divine, He alone could redeem us; pay the price for all the wrong choices made by all men and women.
Because He was human, through His sacred humanity, He would show us a new way, the way of sacrificial love. The depth of that love would be revealed at the second tree where he would stretch out His arms and give Himself fully to those whom He had created and who had turned against the invitation to a communion of love.
Now, we who follow this “new Adam” (whom both the Christian scriptures and tradition reveal is Jesus Christ, in and through whom the new creation is borne) and are reborn through baptism, are given the chance to both make the right choice and invite others to do the same. We are invited into an even greater obligation of solidarity, the continuation of the creative and redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Christian vocation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of solidarity:
“The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood. An error, "today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity." …respect for the human person considers the other "another self." It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person….The equality of men concerns their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it….The differences among persons belong to God's plan, who wills that we should need one another. These differences should encourage charity.