My earliest memory of this Catholic worldview happened in the lunchroom at St. Joseph Catholic School in Rosemount. Every day at lunch, one of the sisters would stand next to the garbage can and say to children wanting to waste food, “How can you waste food when so many people are going hungry in the world? Please don’t take more than you need.”
Long before the modern slogan of “reduce, recycle and reuse” entered current parlance, I knew somehow that I was bound to people all around the world and that my daily behaviors of using things and consuming affected them. I came to see that Jesus’ command to love my neighbor extends beyond my local and national borders.
Living in the age of globalization has come to mean that we are connected in terms of economics and sharing the world’s resources. It also reveals the limits and vulnerabilities of our planet to sustain this economic activity.
One of the promises of globalization was that the standard of more people’s lives would improve. Sadly, the reality has been that relatively few people’s lives have improved except those at the top of the global ladder, and the gap between the haves and have-nots has only grown.
As the chain between producers and consumers of food and other products becomes so long and obscure, it becomes easier to waste and exclude others. We even celebrate our excesses as a sign of success rather than a symptom of what Pope Francis calls a globalization of indifference.
The opposite of global indifference is global solidarity. The U.S. bishops said in their 1997 pastoral letter on solidarity that “a parish (or church) reaching beyond its borders is truly a ‘catholic’ church.”
It builds on the biblical ethic that I am my brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and that we are called to love the world as God’s neighborhood.
I think this is one of the messages of the Christmas season we have just celebrated. We recall John’s Gospel, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son” (John 3:16).
Christmas celebrates God’s solidarity with the world by entering our human condition. Christ lived in solidarity with the poor, the sick, the lost and forgotten to restore them (and us) to our true dignity and reconcile whatever is divided.
Riding the wave
The path to peace is paved by the solidarity of Christ. And it is the vocation of Christian disciples to participate in God’s plan of restoring the world to communion and peace.
Pope Francis recently initiated a global campaign against hunger. It began on Dec. 10 with a prophetic action called a global wave of prayer.
The global wave was modeled after “the wave” that happens in many stadiums during sporting events. The Holy Father called upon people in every time zone to stand and pray at noon for an end to hunger. The global wave of prayer opens up an opportunity for us to stand in solidarity with our neighbors in need. We can follow up this symbolic action with concrete steps and policies that foster global solidarity over global indifference, exclusion and inequality.
As a new year begins, we are asked to pray again for greater peace and unity in our world. Let us consider the wisdom of the sister who stands at the garbage can asking us about our habits of waste and indifference to our brothers and sisters — our neighbors in need.
How is God’s love for the world, celebrated at Christmas, being born in us? And, how can we participate in Christ’s plan to restore all things in himself? This is the peace that the world cannot give.
Deacon Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.
Category: Social Concerns