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USA: the meaning of participation in JRS
Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Participation means all belong to God; we belong to each other. Although God could have saved the world without our help, he invites us instead to participate with him in proclaiming his love for every creature and discovering our place in the common human family (JRS Mweso).
Notre Dame, 14 August 2013 – At the core of every human heart, there is a deep need to belong and to give. We want to know that we are not alone, that someone cares, that someone understands us and that someone is there for us.

We are not complete unless we find a way to give ourselves away, to do something meaningful in this world, to live in a way that makes a difference, to contribute to something beyond ourselves that has significance, purpose and value. To participate means to live in mutually reciprocal relationships and life-giving mission.

Through walking alongside refugees to uphold principles of subsidiarity, Jesuit Refugee Service staff see inspiring moments of refugee participation daily, this is no exception.

The story of Eunice reminds us that despite all the trials and tribulations in the world, God is constantly creating new life, a life into which we too are called to share and participate. It bursts forth in this story through the birth of a child, and it bursts forth every time we connect with another, every time we reach out to another's need, every time we allow others to help us, and every time we participate in all that is the gift of offering and receiving love.

To love and help the poor means little if we do not at the same time seek to empower them to discover and use their own gifts. If we treat the poor as if they were objects to be helped rather than brothers, sisters and friends to accompany in a common human journey, then we not only deprive them but we demean our own dignity as well.

To help Lilian and Regina participate requires more than feeling pity for them. Pity is about feeling sorry for them. But empathy is about feeling with them. Empathy means participating with them in their struggles and empowering them to use their gifts that will help generate new life in the world.

This entails having a heart that feels with them, a concordia in their suffering and a collaboratio in their liberation. They are not just projects to be accomplished, problems to be fixed, issues to be resolved. They are people to be loved, friends to accompany, brothers to walk with, and sisters who have gifts to offer.

As Dr Martin Luther King Jr reminded us we "are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…Did you ever stop to think that you can't leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world?…You go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that's poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a Chinese.

Or maybe you're desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half the world.

This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. We aren't going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality." (A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, 254).

Because we are hard-wired for interconnectedness, when we participate in the life of those who are suffering and in need, and we reach out and try to help, something is not only born in the other but something comes to life in us as well. Grace is at work when new life comes forth even in what seems to us as the most godless of circumstances.

In participating in God's love for the world, we participate in the rebuilding and renewing of relationships with God, others, ourselves, and the environment. In giving to those struggling to live we paradoxically find new life at the same time.

Participation means all belong to God; we belong to each other. Although God could have saved the world without our help, he invites us instead to participate with him in proclaiming his love for every creature and discovering our place in the common human family.

Daniel G Groody CSC PhD, Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Centre for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame