By Fr. Jake Greiner
If you have been following certain current events in our country, you undoubtedly heard that many of our fellow Americans were “standing in solidarity” with victims of crimes, families who lost loved ones, those who are suffering from pain and hardship, etc. This phrase of “standing in solidarity” can have a multiplicity of meanings, but when considered within the Catholic tradition, being in solidarity with someone means that a person or persons try to foster a friendship with someone else in order to empathize with, assist and/or love this individual.
As a mentor once explained to me as I struggled with the concept of solidarity, “Solidarity is simply trying to be a good neighbor, a good citizen and overall good person all at the same time.”
Why develop this friendship or be in solidarity with others? Every Catholic must practice solidarity because our faith demands that we strive to be in solidarity with others. Solidarity is the practical living out of the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors (rf. Matt 27:37-40). Furthermore, the friendships developed through solidarity are authentic acknowledgements that all people have their origin from God and are loved by God.
Jesus Christ is the true exemplar of solidarity. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). Jesus Christ demonstrates the greatest act of solidarity through his incarnation — God who became man to save us from our sins. If Jesus provides the example of living out solidarity, he will ultimately give us the grace and strength we need in order to go and live out solidarity: “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Heb 4:15-16).
The bottom line is that Catholics are supposed to “stand in solidarity” with anyone who truly needs material or spiritual support. We are supposed to go out and develop friendships with others because of how much God loves all people, and we need to empathize with, assist and love these people to the best of our ability. We need to be good neighbors, good citizens and good people. Therefore, solidarity cannot be attached to one particular political party or one particular social movement. Christian solidarity is not to be extended only to those individuals who share similar thoughts and ideals. We are truly living out solidarity to the fullest when we go out to anyone in need and help them address whatever is afflicting them. Solidarity demands that many of us get outside of our comfort zones in order to go out and meet those who are struggling. From my personal experience, “standing in solidarity” with others has revealed that I have more in common with people than I could ever have imagined before I developed these friendships.
In the end, the most important tool in fostering solidarity is prayer. It is only through prayer that we can truly understand what God wants us to do for the other. When we cooperate with the will of God, the Kingdom of God is extended. Furthermore, God will give us the grace and strength to overcome the fear and weaknesses that prevent us from being in solidarity with others. Jesus Christ, who came to have solidarity with us through the Incarnation, now wants us to go out and be his presence to others.
(Fr. Greiner is pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher.)