“[Unless] a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” - John 12: 24-25
In this week’s Gospel, as we approach Palm Sunday, Jesus is increasingly clear about the demands of Christian discipleship. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”
Throughout his teachings, Jesus makes it clear that we will find him among those who are rejected, suffering, unvalued or oppressed. If we are to follow him, we must go with him there.
Solidarity is the word the Church uses to describe what it means to follow Jesus into relationship with those who are suffering or downtrodden. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis explains, “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community (116)”
He continues, explaining what the principle of solidarity means for social systems:
“[Solidarity] means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few. It also means combatting the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labor rights. It means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money… Solidarity, understood in its most profound meaning, is a way of making history…”
Living out solidarity can be hard at the individual level, and perhaps even harder to realize as a society. It is made possible through God’s grace and the encounters we have with those on the margins which teach us to recognize them as our brothers and sisters and undertake the hard work of learning to treat their burdens and joys as our own.
Once we have experienced these encounters, we learn that we cannot be wholly happy or satisfied while our brothers and sisters suffer. That is why we work for the Kingdom – so that all our joy might be complete. In the Gospel Jesus reminds us, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.”
Sister Antoinette Gutzler, MM, President of the Maryknoll Sisters, reflects, “[Solidarity]...calls us to acknowledge our own suffering and then to shift our perspective into one that encompasses all the suffering peoples throughout the world. In a world where God is in charge – where Jesus Christ is King of the Universe, we realize that we are not alone – we are all connected. The recognition of that connection gives birth to empathy, compassion and a call to action for the life of the world.”
Pope Francis reminds us, “We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our hearts are filled with faces and names! The great goals of our dreams and plans may only be achieved in part… No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force (195).”
Question for Reflection
- Where have you seen the power of solidarity or encounter?
- How do you feel the call of Jesus to draw near to someone in your midst who may be suffering or rejected?
O Creator, our world is large, and yet the global community is so fragile.
We glimpse the needs of our sisters and brothers, and those needs are great. We want to turn away, but you call us back.
We want simple solutions, but you want us to help solve the complex problems. Through your Church, you call us to listen, to learn, to reflect and to act.
Give us a deep sense of our place in this web of Creation.
Give us the wisdom of mind and generosity of heart to seek your will in the world today. Inspire us to respond to the call to live in solidarity with impoverished countries of the world, so that all children of God might live in dignity and peace.
- Catholic Relief Services, Education for Justice staff
Fast from one habit of distraction this week, whether it is social media, watching TV, etc. Ask God how you might make more time in your life for encounters of solidarity.
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in impoverished countries without access to a COVID-19 vaccine, take action to urge our leaders to prioritize vaccine equity around the world.
Maryknoll Missioner Experience
“When I was a Maryknoll lay missioner in Brazil, I lived in a neighborhood of migrants in the megacity of São Paulo…Being migrants ourselves, my friend Edina, who is from the northeast of Brazil, and I empathized with the women. We knew firsthand what it was like to be without family support as you raise your children and struggle to get by.
We decided to start a women’s group to offer a place for these stressed and lonely women to rest and meet other women while learning a new skill….After about a year of meeting, our solidarity with each other was strong…Several women said they looked forward to meeting each week with their ‘sisters.’ We were there for each other when a husband left the home, or a child fell sick, or a family lost its shack to torrential rains…
Around this time, [one member, Ana], got mysteriously sick. She had no family, except her husband, in São Paulo. So our group accompanied her through her hospital stays and intense suffering…In an amazing act of compassion and love, Edina offered to donate one of her kidneys [to Ana]. She and Ana had already become very close from participating in the group and this act of kindness would solidify their bond forever… [in the end], Edina’s offering to Ana saved Ana’s life.”
- Angel Mortel, Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Brazil
*Thank you to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns for permission to share this Lenten Guide at springfieldop.org.
Fifth Week of Lent: Photo of a favela in Brazil by Rafaella Traniello, available on Flickr: http://bit.ly/3ak8Cvs