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Lent as an invitation to practicing solidarity

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Lent seems to ask for more. The liturgical season, I think, points more to "being" than "doing." In other words, Lent is an important time of the year to reflect on who I am in relationship to God and to my sisters and brothers.

Hosffman
Ospino

Lent is a most beautiful season for spiritual renewal. Lent is a time to reflect about our journey of faith and to assess to what extent we are living authentically our Christian discipleship.

I heard recently in a homily, "What are you going to do this Lent?" The question is always challenging because it invites me to shift my attention to the distinctiveness of the season and its call to conversion.

The "doing" during Lent, however, should be more than just adding some activities or giving up others in our lives. That may reduce Lent to a simplistic checklist: I gave up chocolate ... done. I visited a shelter ... done. I went to Mass during the week ... check. Small steps and practices are valuable, of course, but we must up the ante.

Lent seems to ask for more. The liturgical season, I think, points more to "being" than "doing." In other words, Lent is an important time of the year to reflect on who I am in relationship to God and to my sisters and brothers.

During Lent, we (re)discover ourselves being in relationship with a God who is in solidarity with us. Yes, God walks with us in history, sustains us with merciful love, calls us into friendship and heals our wounds as we make our way through history.

God, fully revealed through Jesus Christ's actions and words, is the measure of Christian solidarity. Thus, we are called to relate to our sisters and brothers like God does with us: walking with others, especially the most vulnerable, sustaining each other with merciful love, living in friendship and healing wounds.

This idea of Christian solidarity seems countercultural to others that prevail in our society. Solidarity is often reduced to comradeship, or unconditional loyalty, or watching each other's backs. Such definitions share something in common: They are transactional; there is the expectation of something in return.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," observed also that the "word 'solidarity' is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity" (No. 188).

Lent affords us the opportunity to reflect about solidarity as something more than a mere transaction or a sporadic action.

As we pray during Lent and prepare our hearts as a community of believers to contemplate the mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection, we arrive at an understanding of Christian solidarity that is grounded in the conviction that Christ is present in the other, without exception.

Christian solidarity, therefore, is an invitation to see the face of Christ in the other person, especially the poor, the suffering, the vulnerable. When we have such an encounter, we are compelled to do something. Solidarity, says Pope Francis in the same exhortation, "must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them" (No. 189).

Solidarity demands that we take our time and listen to the cries of our sisters and brothers. God does. It is tempting to prescribe what others need or judge their condition in light of our own particular experience. We often do this with the person who is poor, or disabled, or immigrant, or minoritized, or broken, or suffering from an addiction.

Yet, we must listen. When we listen, we affirm our sister's agency, our brother's right to name reality. Listening empowers the other. When we listen, we learn and grow in compassion.

What am I going to do this Lent? Listen attentively as a way of living to practice solidarity the way God does. What about you?

- Hosffman Ospino is assistant professor of theology and religious education at Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry.



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