Standing in Solidarity

February 1, 2010

Standing in Solidarity Jesus’ Mission of Evangelization By Fr. Paul McCartin At the Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, the bishops put forward the idea of a preferential option for the poor.

The goal was not only to liberate people from poverty but also to prevent institutionalized and generational poverty.

The bishops felt that the Church had a duty to help the poor, Jesus’ chosen people.

Standing in Solidarity

By working with people living in poverty, helping them achieve education goals and organizing their labor to demand higher wages and just working conditions, the religious who took part in this effort were hoping that people living in poverty would no longer accept the hierarchy that had been handed down for generations.

While the liberation theology that resulted from the movement was widely opposed and later put aside in the 1970s, the idea of living with, working with and helping those living in poverty help themselves has never gone away.

The option for the poor was part of Jesus’ mission or, to put it another way, it was the way He carried out His mission, the way He proclaimed the Good News from the standpoint of solidarity with the poor.

The Church is called to translate into action and concrete initiatives the commandment of love thy neighbor.

There is no better testimony to the love of God than Christ, who identified Himself with the poor, the sick, the naked, strangers, prisoners and with the least of His brethren (Mt. 25:31).

“Religious should diligently practice and if need be express also in new forms that voluntary poverty which is recognized and highly esteemed especially today as an expression of the following of Christ.

By it they share in the poverty of Christ who for our sakes became poor, even though He was rich, so that by His poverty we might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; Mt. 8:20. Perfectae Caritatis, Vatican Council decree on the renewal of religious life).

Walking the same path as those living in poverty and living a life of service to others provides a living, breathing example of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When Bishop Edward Galvin and Father John Blowick, the founders of the Missionary Society of Saint Columban, got together to bring the Gospel to the Chinese people more than 90 years ago, they did not have our late twentieth century awareness of the importance of the option for the poor to Jesus’ mission.

As individuals, of course, they were heroic in their generosity to poor people.

Bishop Galvin went where he was called, to spread the Good News of the Gospel by living with the Chinese people, suffering when they suffered and rejoicing when they prospered.

It was by truly entering into the poverty of the Chinese people that Bishop Galvin and later Columban missionaries could serve as examples of Christ’s love for us all.

“Since this mission goes on and in the course of history unfolds the mission of Christ Himself, who was sent to preach the Gospel to the poor, the Church, prompted by the Holy Spirit, must walk in the same path on which Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice to the death, from which death He came forth a victor by His resurrection” (Ad Gentes, the Vatican Council decree on the missionary activity of the Church).

It is only comparatively recently that the centrality of the option for the poor to Jesus’ mission has been rediscovered by scripture scholars and theologians.

Of course, making a preferential option for the poor does not replace evangelization as our aim as missionaries.

Rather, taking this stance, standing with the poor and trying to view things through their eyes, returns us to genuine evangelization.

Walking the same path as those living in poverty and living a life of service to others provides a living, breathing example of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Standing in solidarity with the poor was essential to Jesus’ mission.

To continue that mission, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, is to do it from the viewpoint of those living on the very margins of society, the overlooked and the ignored.

From our humble start in China, Columban missionaries now work around the globe, often with indigenous and marginalized people.

We are committed to Jesus’ mission of giving voice to the voiceless and standing as witnesses to His abundant grace and mercy.

Fr. Paul McCartin works in Japan.