“Solidarity” is a word that is often used in social justice circles to describe the unity or oneness we strive to have with others, especially those who are experiencing poverty or inequality.

There are many more ways to describe solidarity, and even more ways to live it out. This is something we will continue to explore and discuss during the six and a half weeks of this sacred season.

But what does solidarity have to do with Lent? You might be surprised.

Firstly, the season begins on Ash Wednesday with this great equalizing phrase of, “Remember you are made of dust, and to dust you shall return.” While this blessing can remind us of our own frailty, it can also serve to remind us of what we are all made of and what we shall all become. No matter our age, sex, race, geography, job status or social standing, we all have the same origin and all have the same end, and we are all equally loved by God our creator.

Secondly, through the incarnation, God came to be one with us and our human experience The life and death of Jesus is a story of solidarity – he knows what it is like to be human because he lived it. Jesus shares in our humanity and we are reminded of this especially during Lent when we commemorate his temptations in the desert, his persecution, and his suffering to the point of death.

Through the Lenten traditions of  prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we can focus on Christ’s sacrifice as well as gain perspective on the meaning of our own and learn better to emulate his.

How are we to be “ambassadors of Christ,” as described in today’s second reading, and carry our this Year of Faith of evangelization if we do not follow the very precedent set forth by Christ?

We must follow Jesus’ example of humility if we are to emulate Jesus’ self-sacrificing love. Eating with the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus socialized with people whom society considered undesirable. Because of his own  passion Jesus knows what it is like to be vulnerable and persecuted — do we?

To be in solidarity with others, we must meet them on their level. When we sit and share food with those who are hungry, or we forgo a meal ourselves, we can start to better identify with their struggle.

When we meet others where they’re at, we are more able to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and “live in harmony with one another” as we “associate with the lowly”  (Romans 12:15-16). When we begin to recognize someone’s suffering, we build bridges of understanding and can help to create ways for them to better themselves.

And making solidarity part of Lenten self-denial can help us in renewing our relationship with God and with those around us because the practice of solidarity is one  reciprocity. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Being in solidarity with others allows us to more fully live out the Gospel and share in God’s love.

As Pope Benedict XVI says in his Lenten address,”When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly ‘active through love’ (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:12).”

Throughout this Lenten season, we look forward to exploring and deepening the discussion of solidarity, so that we all might be active through the love of Christ’s example.