We have heard over and over that Freemasonry is a Brotherhood. That it is a fraternity. We use the term Masonic Family when referring to the group of organizations associated with Masonry. But it often seems that we use these terms out of habit, without any sense of meaning behind the words that are coming out of our mouths.
I can think of countless lodge meetings that I have attended where we recognize men as Brother Smith or Worshipful Brother Jones. We use the term Brother so often that we become desensitized to its meaning. Soon the word ‘Brother’ becomes little more than a substitute for ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir.’ Perhaps this is a failing of our institution’s protocol or perhaps it is our own fault for overusing this word. But in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’d like to talk a little bit about what the word ‘Brother’ means to me.
A Brother is your next of kin. He is more than a friend, he is your own flesh and blood. A man for which you would lay down your life. In the Masonic lodge, the term refers to the men of that mystic tie, that solemn obligation which we have all taken. This obligation is more than just a formality or organizational oath. The obligation is a pledge to be true to God, to yourself, and to your neighbor. The obligation is our promise to live and act virtuously and to love our fellow man. When we assume this obligation, we are declaring that we wish to be in the company of men who share the same values and ideals. By uniting ourselves with this honorable pledge, we become Brothers of that ancient and honorable clan: the Freemasons.
Unfortunately, we find that throughout history that relationships between brothers have not always been worthy of emulation. Two of the greatest examples of this are found in the Old Testament. We read of Cain murdering Abel in Genesis and when God inquires about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain replies “Am I my Brother’s keeper?” We learn that Jacob was willing to trick his father Isaac in order to obtain Esau’s blessing. We need not look far to see similar actions occurring today. Our Masonic lodges are full of Brothers who resent each other out of jealousy or are too proud to meet each another upon the level. We have arguments and feuds over lodge business and we often neglect our fellow Masons in need of relief.
During the Christmas holiday, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus who would grow up to become a leader that espoused the ideals of Brotherhood. Of all the lessons that Jesus taught, the most important is undoubtedly his new commandment: love one another. This is exactly what we as Freemasons and as Brothers should do. For if we love one another we will act by the square, we will circumscribe our desires, and we will give relief to our worthy Brother Masons. If we use the word ‘Brother’ not out of habit, but out of love, we will truly be a Masonic family. And by loving one another, we can understand the spirit of that solemn obligation.
One of the tenets of our profession is Brotherly Love and I propose that we all make this theme our focus for the new year. Let us make love a bigger part of the Masonic equation and let us focus on the meaning of being a Brotherhood.
My Brothers, love one another.
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