Solidarity is a theological theme that is at the heart of the Christian life. Solidarity is love lived out, mercy in practice, consideration for those who suffer pain and deprivation. It is living out the message of Matthew 25 here and now.
Around the world, and in our own country, many missionaries exemplify the virtue of solidarity. They live side by side with the people they serve, often in very difficult, and sometimes, violence-filled situations. Some have been martyred for their efforts, literally laying down their life in the cause of serving their brothers and sisters in need.
In the comfort of our American lifestyles, the concept of this “red” martyrdom is a difficult one for many of us to grasp. “Why would someone choose to do that”?, some may ask. For others, the question may be, “Is there a cause I would be willing to die for?” Or the question for some may be, “If I was faced with the choice, would I have the faith and courage to die for the Gospel message”?
Not easy questions to ponder.
Pope John Paul II described the call to solidarity as being intimately related to the call to communion with God. It is a call to affirm in one’s life the interdependence and unity of humankind before God. What happens to one happens to all. (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, On Social Concern)
How do we live out the virtue of solidarity? The answer is both challenging and simple. It starts with refusing to see another person as “The Other”. Living the Gospel means that there is no such thing as “The Other” because we are one before God and as part of the Body of Christ.
When we have this understanding of solidarity with all people, we will find many opportunities to work to improve the situation of those that find themselves on the margins of society. In choosing to live the message of the Gospel, we will frequently be asked to die to self and take up our cross, and so, be asked to accept a second type of martyrdom known as “white” martyrdom. In choosing to accept the challenges of living a life of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are, too often, left behind or left out, we have the opportunity to see Jesus in our midst and experience communion with our God.