Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Being Brother

When I entered Valley Lodge No. 613 last night for my Official Visit, my heart filled with joy. Before me was a room with not only every single chair filled, but with an extra row of folding chairs to accomodate the crowd. I was honored to have presented 50 year service emblems to two of our Brothers this evening. One received it proudly from his son (and Brother) as his grandson, a new petitioner to the Craft, watched on.

When asked for my remarks, I presented the following address:

Being Brother

Until you have become really, in actual fact, as brother to everyone, brotherhood will not come to pass – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
We as Freemasons address each other as Brother. I would venture to say that at any given Lodge meeting, I say that word at least one hundred times and confess with more than a little embarrassment, that I have not often given more than a passing thought to what it means to call someone Brother. So what does it mean to be a Brother to someone? What are the duties of a Brother? Lastly, what are the expectations of Brotherhood?

The dictionary gives one definition of brother as “a male member of an association or club.” That seems obvious enough. We are all members of the Freemasons so we address each other as Brother. There is another definition though, that as Freemasons, we need to use. Brother can also be defined as “all members of the human race.” See, when we as Masons talk about the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, we are speaking to uniting the whole human race together into a truly universal Brotherhood where people are judged on who they are, not what they look like, who they know or what they drive.

The soul of each man in this room was fashioned by the Great Artificer in his image. How then can we not feel that we have a vested interest in the welfare of the man to our right or to our left, or the man who could not be here tonight? Are we our Brother’s keeper? Most assuredly, Yes! We are charged to remind him in the most tender manner of his failings, to vindicate his character and to suggest in his behalf the most candid, favorable and palliating circumstances, even when his conduct is justly reprehensible. Essentially, we are to love and trust him even at those times he makes himself unlovable and untrustworthy. How much better would life be if we took those charges to heart?

Let us do those things daily that we hear read at every Lodge meeting. Let us be happy ourselves. Let us endeavor to contribute to the happiness of others. How? Be there for your Brothers. We could meet someone for breakfast or lunch, or sit in Lodge next to a Brother you do not know very well. In short, be to others the kind of person you would want to spend time with.

Many of us do this now. I know of at least one Brother here tonight who offered a ride to one who can't transport himself. Still others visit the widows of deceased members.

With the current financial crisis, some of our older members are probably terrified for their future as they watch a lifetime of savings vanishing before their eyes. We have an obligation to check on them. If they are scared, they should be here with friends where they can rest within these walls and feel peace in abundance. Reach out to them my Brothers.

Remember the three heads of duty we are always to inculcate? To God, our neighbor and ourselves? I would submit to you that our ancient Brethren did not put those in “no particular order.” If we have a relationship with our Creator, read His Sacred Law and live in harmony with his purpose for us, our duties to our neighbor and ourselves become clear. By being benevolent, caring, patient, by being teacher to some and student of some, we may become friend to all. That, my beloved Brothers is what we are to do. Be friend – be Brother – to all.

The story of Damon and Pythias illustrates just what it means be a Brother.

Damon and Pythias grew up together and were best friends for most of their lives. Dionysius, the King of Syracuse heard that Pythias had been giving treasonous speeches in public. This enraged Dionysius and he summoned Pythias and his friend to court. Dionysius order Pythias to retract his comments or face execution. Pythias refused, willing to suffer execution for what he believed was the truth. He asked only that he be allowed to return to his home to say goodbye to his family and set his affairs in order.

Dionysius laughed and said, “Surely you must think me mad. If I set you free, you will never return.”

Without a moment of hesitation, Damon stood up and offered to take Pythias’ place until his return. Dionysius paused and finally said, “If you are willing to suffer his fate when he doesn’t return for you, I will allow him to return home. Remember, if he doesn’t return in one month, you will die in his place.”

Damon trusted that his friend would return and gladly went with the jailer.

As the days passed, the King would visit Damon in the jail and mock his foolish decision. Damon never - not for a second - lost confidence. Even as the deadline approached and he was about to be executed, he told the king that a storm must have delayed his ship, or bandits on the highway must have slowed his return.

At the very last minute, Pythias returned, tattered and weary. He explained that his ship was lost for a time in a storm and he had indeed been beaten and robbed on his way back, but that nothing would stop him from returning to save his friend.

Dionysius studied them both. He was so moved by such devotion that he pardoned Pythias and made both he and Damon members of his court – wanting to be in the presence of a friendship so deep and abiding.

I charge you tonight to continue to strive toward that kind of love. Work on that part of your rough ashlar, my Brothers. Continue to show the world that Freemasons are good and just people, that we recognize and cherish the bond with our fellow man, that we love all and most importantly that we know what it means to be a Brother!

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