Responsible to Everyone for Everything
Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
September 11, 2022
Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
September 11, 2022
In his book, The Brothers Karamazov, the Russian writer Dostoyevsky wrote that “all of us are somehow responsible to everyone for everything”. This quote hangs on my office door. I received a copy of it many years ago when I was a seminarian as part of a campus ministry retreat. It has hung in all of my work spaces ever since. It is a good reminder of our Christian faith that reminds us that we are indeed all interconnected with each other and with the world. Everything we do has an effect on another life. Often we may not even be aware of how many of our seemingly insignificant actions impact others. One of my favorite movies about this is, It’s a Wonderful Life. In the movie, George Bailey gets to see how his world would be different if he were not a part of it. George was able to see how his actions of sacrificial love for the greater good transformed the world around him in ways he never imagined.
While not the same as seeing what the world would be like without us, my recent experience of our Paulist Fathers departure from our campus ministry in Columbus gave me a perspective of the impact our ministry had on people that I otherwise may not have known. The sudden announcement by the new bishop of Columbus ended the Paulist Fathers 66 years of campus ministry at The Ohio State University left so many people shocked and angry. Yet it also caused so many people to express in writing the enormous impact the Paulists have had in their lives over the many years of our ministry there. Hearing all these testimonies was very humbling and uplifting. It caused me to reflect: how often do we thank people who have impacted our lives in positive ways? Conversely how often are we quick to apologize when we find out we have caused harm to someone even unintentionally?
In the Gospel story for this weekend, we have the familiar story of The Prodigal Son. On the surface it seems that each of the characters in the story is the only one impacted by their choice. Yet each one’s choice does impact the others and the whole community around them. We are all on this faith journey together. Our spiritual, and material choices have an effect on others around us. Our spiritual choices to forgive and accept each other in spite of our sins and failures impact the spiritual life of our families, communities, and ultimately the whole world. Our material choices have consequences beyond just our immediate surroundings. Our Catholic Social Teaching centers around the care for the Common Good. Our actions on behalf of social justice and care for our environment ultimately impact everyone.
This weekend we mark the 21st anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The tragic events of that day made us painfully aware as a country that we are not able to completely isolate ourselves from those who perceive us as a threat and seek to harm us. The events of January 6th, 2021 show us how dangerously politically divided we are even in our own country. The political landscape of the world and of our own country is fraught with seemingly irreconcilable differences. How we approach these differences matters. In many of his writings, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all responsible for the healing of our society. The choices we make in our day to day lives may seem of little consequence to world affairs. Yet our faith reminds us that each choice we make for the greater good of others can have an effect further afield than we ever could imagine.
All of us indeed are somehow responsible to everyone for everything.