The Service of Solidarity

Solidarity is an experience common to most people. Communal tasks and responsibilities as well as shared experiences are all times when we tend to have attitudes of solidarity with others. However, it is the most painful moments of our life when solidarity becomes particularly evident as well as necessary. Poverty, injustice, sickness, the suffering of the innocent, and despair are all realities that move us to live in solidarity with others.

Solidarity is born from human nature. Being human we are called to a common destiny. The happiness of one person is bound with the happiness of others. The man of yesterday and today hungers for solidarity because it responds to his deepest reality as a creation of God, made in His image and likeness, and invited to communion. “But God did not create man as a solitary…For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential.”[1]

A believer who strives to faithfully and consistently respond to the divine invitation for plenitude cannot help but seek a greater affective and effective adhesion to solidarity with others. “God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”[2] Solidarity is an expression of fraternal communion and of the daily experience of unity of heart. It is a living witness to charity, and has its roots in God’s own love. The personal encounter with the Lord awakens in us a desire to transcend our own selfishness to give ourselves to others. For that reason, the first social task consists in opening oneself to grace and striving for holiness.

A fruit of the dynamism of communion is my personal commitment to my neighbor. Any group or small community that lives an ideal of “helping one another to help others,” and that looks to help others, is a sign of the Church’s maturity and edification. But, solidarity is not lived in the abstract, but rather by real people. For that reason, it must be a permanent state of our being, an authentic Christian virtue. We should cooperate with grace to shed ourselves of selfishness and realize ourselves loving, serving, and being solidaric.

The Action of Solidarity

The apostolic mission to announce the Gospel cannot be separated from an effective effort for human advancement. Rather, this would be to “forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering and in need.”[3] The service of solidarity is an act of love and mercy that seeks to remedy the suffering of our brothers and sisters: to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, shelter to the dispossessed, and to teach the ignorant. On the other hand, though together with what was said, we are called to build God’s kingdom, combating the selfishness and sin of men, encouraging and promoting solidarity between people. It is a matter of creating a culture of solidarity for real men and women, many who hunger for bread, all of whom hunger for God, communion and reconciliation.

Effective solidarity consists in an act that is connatural, opportune, proportionate and generous to another who is poor. It’s of little consequence that you have little or nothing to offer in comparison with so much suffering and need. While we live, we always have time and patience, charity and prayer, invaluable riches to be shared with our brothers and sisters who are most in need.

In our commitment to love, we cannot entertain the illusion of a Christianity without the Cross, without the Lord Jesus who suffered and lived in solidarity with the poor. The ascesis of solidaric service begins when we break from our fear to suffer with others, sharing it like the Good Samaritan. The parable teaches us a new way of being. We are invited to let ourselves be touched by the suffering of our neighbor, and turn it into effective service, unafraid of the possible consequences. It is the experience of coming into contact with the destiny of someone else, putting aside one’s own plans, confronting the reality of pain and the closeness of death.

The Lord Jesus teaches us to spare no effort when faced with the wondrous dignity of the human person, who is the glory of God. This ascesis is a path of maturity and joy, one of charity that purifies the heart. It moves us to transcend our comfort zone, and listen to the Lord Jesus when he says in the depths of our hears: “Come, you blessed of my Father. Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink.”[4]

Mary, Mother of Solidarity

The passage of the Visitation[5] is an eloquent testimony of solidaric service. Mary doesn’t wait for the perfect conditions to address the needs of her cousin. She leaves with only what she needs, the desire to lovingly share God’s Gift and to serve her elderly cousin, Elizabeth. We catch a glimpse of her solidaric style; prompt and directed toward the person in need. She is decided, and so assumed the difficulties inherent to traveling the mountainous path toward her cousin. She is humble and connatural, assuming the household tasks along with personal service for this expectant woman. The Virgin of Nazareth seems happy to share the burden of others. Her joy is so deep and filled with the Spirit that it creates a positive environment in the house.

Sacred Scripture also provides us with the passage of the Wedding Feast at Cana, where we see Mary attentive to all the subtle details and necessities of others.[6] With great finesse and profound reverence, Mary turns to Jesus in order to remedy the awkward situation for the newlyweds. Her reverent silence clarifies her vision to perceive reality, both human circumstances and their consequences in men´s lives. Reverence, then, provides us with the connaturality necessary to live this solidarity in a concrete way through addressing the true needs of our brothers and sisters. It opens our eyes to reality so that we can cooperate with grace, the Lord’s loving action. Mary reminds us that others should encounter the Lord Jesus through solidarity.

Mary, at the foot of the Cross, is a woman of strength; we could even say, the Woman of Strength. In her, reigns a vision of faith. Sustained by grace, she does not succumb nor flee from her suffering. Poverty, pain and human suffering are realities that most move us to practice solidarity with those in need. Mary teaches how difficult it is to keep ourselves strong when faced with such pain, let alone sustain another person who is suffering, if not buoyed by faith. Our commitment to fight the evils of this world needs to have deep roots of faith; it requires a heart that is willing to love until it hurts and a supernatural perspective that reminds us of the Lord, who also suffers. The great mystery of suffering, while it moves to compassion, cannot be understood without grasping its cause, sin. First and foremost, we should fight the sin in our own lives. Every act of solidarity is a search for integral reconciliation, a fight against sin and its horrifying consequences.

For Meditation

The Lord calls us to live in solidarity with others: Mt 5:42; Mt 19:21; Lk 6:30; Lk 6:35.

Solidarity with those who suffer and are in need: Mt 25:34-45; Jn 2:1ff; Jn 19:25-27; Gal 6,2; Jas 2:15-17.

The Lord Jesus, model of solidarity: Mt 8:2-3; Mt 8:5-7; Mt 8:16-17; Mt 9:35-38; Mt 14:14; Mt 15:32-39; Mk 6:34.

Solidarity for others comes springs forth from God’s love: 1Jn 4:11; 1Jn 4:19-21; 1Jn 5:2.

Love is made concrete through solidarity: Gal 5:13b; Gal 6:9-10; 1Jn 3:16-18.

 

[1] Gaudium et spes, 12.

[2] Gaudium et spes, 24.

[3] Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, 31.

[4] Mt 25:34-35.

[5] See Lk 1:39ff.

[6] See Jn 2:1ff.