October 6, 2006

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

We are one human family

Continuing to explore the seven themes of Catholic social teaching, we arrive at the principle referred to as solidarity, which describes the fact that we are all one human family.

Solidarity means that loving our neighbor has global dimensions in an interdependent world.

Clearly, Scripture tells us that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God the Creator.

As much as we try as human beings to distinguish ourselves from one another by differences in color, nationality, religion, etc., we cannot ignore the fact that in reality we all have one parent in the Creator and are therefore all related as brother and sister. When we truly grasp the full reality of this fact, it has tremendous implications for how we are called to relate to one another.

In the Gospel of Luke (Lk 10:29), we hear of an expert in the law who asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus’ reply was the story of the Good Samaritan, teaching us that our neighbor is anyone in need, and we are called to respond. The world may tell us that we are not our brother or sister’s keeper, but the Lord would tell us otherwise.

I don’t know about you, but this teaching can leave me feeling a bit overwhelmed! How can I possibly be concerned about the entire human family?

I conclude that we are each called to take stock of our own unique gifts and talents and ability to give. Then, through discernment with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we decide where we are called to relieve suffering and improve a part of our family.

There are some who take a very broad view of our world and look at the public policies established by governments and institutions, and work as advocates for the poor and vulnerable to create or change policies that relieve suffering.

Others get involved in very personal ways with individuals and families who are in need through their own initiatives or initiatives established by Church communities, neighborhood organizations or larger institutions, such as hospitals, Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or Catholic Relief Services.

We are blessed to belong to the Catholic Church that has taken very seriously this lesson of solidarity and has established many ways for us to take part in ministries that meet the needs of our human family. We can each look to the organizations named above and many others, and discover how we can have the greatest impact.

Within the past couple of years, we have seen this lesson of human solidarity demonstrated in very dramatic ways—following the devastation of the tsunamis overseas and Hurricane Katrina in our own country. These huge natural disasters demonstrated our interconnectedness and need for one another.

We witnessed massive suffering by members of our human family, and we responded as a family does in a crisis. We prayed, we sent donations, we worked in the affected areas, we opened our communities, and we all felt the suffering of our family in those areas.

We simply could not ignore the principle that when one member of the family suffers, we all suffer.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.) †


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