This is my personal testimony as an active La Salette Missionary and pastoral minister, working for Peace and Social Justice.
Struggling for Justice
As I write this testimony, I remember many people who have been with me on this journey and have given me the privilege of sharing their stories, dreams, struggles and desires.
I thank those who, in particular, have experienced the painfulness of living with a broken heart because of the lack of justice in their lives and yet have had the courage to share their lives and stories with me and others. Over and above this, I am also grateful for their commitment in the struggle for truth and for a more just society.
I believe that it is in their tears and their faithful commitment to the search for justice that we find the hope that “another world is possible”. Also they help us to commit ourselves to the struggle for justice and the restoration of the relationship between God, the people of the Kingdom and the Earth.
Thinking of all these people and their precious gifts that I have received in my lifetime, I remember a poem by Pedro Casaldaliga:
At the end of the road I will be asked:
Have you lived? Have you loved?
And I, not saying anything,
will open my heart full of names.
Perhaps it is also a good definition for those religious who work defending human dignity and the dignity of all living beings. We are not called to serve the creators of history but to the service of those who suffer it. To do this we must know the reality of the victims, we need to listen to human history and the history of every being that is threatened or in danger of extinction.
Remembering Those Who Suffer from Injustice
I invite you to take a moment to get in contact with the histories of people whose dignity has been violated. What has impressed you and maybe encouraged you in your own struggle for justice? Who do you admire for their witness as victims of injustice?
It would have been impossible for me to work in defense of life and dignity without the support of the Word of God. There are many texts that inspire me including the words of the prophet, Micah (6:8):
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
The Matthean Jesus goes much further in his Sermon of the Mount, as he lists his Beatitudes (5:3-12):
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
But the words that inspire me most are those from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia (3:26-29):
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
We All Have a Prophetic Call
I believe that the religious of our time are called to be prophets, especially alongside those who are fragile. We are expected by God to share the struggles and work to defend life, dignity, inclusion, and respect, especially for those who are different – to seek out their true liberty and rights.
It is a big challenge and involves much more than a call to us as individuals. It is a call to our entire La Salette Community – and to every disciple of Jesus today. Jesus proudly declared: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). I believe now more than ever that the promise of life – life in abundance – is not only for us but for every living being.
My experience tells me that all the above must first be lived by us and among us as religious. Are we capable of looking at these texts and others, as individuals, members of ministry and also as a Religious Congregation? Can we share the fruit of our reflection, our pain, our hopes and dreams while we share, for example, what strikes us – in the letter of St. Paul to the Church of Galatia, from our personal experiences, community experiences, in the lives of the poor and also in the life of our own Mother Earth?
To work for the rights and dignity of another living being means that, in the first place, we must have a personal conversion, taking a profound look at our own life, our way of living, our attitudes, and even our own racism, discrimination, sexism, and oppressive tendencies. We must examine everything in us that does not help life to be produced – in abundance. To be a truly beneficial experience, this must be done within a community experience so that, as a community, we can together assume the commitment for justice as such.
Reconciliation – A Charism Lived Within Community
As I write these words, I think of the charism of reconciliation that s ours as a religious congregation. It offers the Church a treasure on behalf of all those who wish to work for Peace, Justice, Reconciliation, the Dignity and the Protection of Life, wherever it is threatened in our world.
I believe the cry of the Poor and of the Earth are intimately connected. If we want to be more sensitive to the deep pain suffered by our brothers and sisters and the pain of our planet, Mother Earth, all of us are called to study and reflect in depth and well on both these realities.
The noted an Argentine writer, painter and physicist, Ernesto Sábato, once wrote:
"If it had not been for my companions, for the poor people with whom I had already committed myself, I surely would have given up. One does not dare to continue when alone and isolated, but is able to do so if one is so deeply inserted in the reality of others that there is no going back."
It prompts us to look at our own pain, our need for healing, for our own ultimate reconciliation. All of this is very important because we are called to accompany very vulnerable people, in very vulnerable situations.
For that reason I believe it is very important that there be a process of healing along with those who suffer most. However, first, it is important to confront and embrace with courage our own histories as individuals, as communities, as a Religious Congregation, as people of God, with honesty, transparence and compassion.