Diakonia - Although this word is certainly a familiar concept for CLINIC affiliates who are guided by a philosophy of selfless service, it was not until the Holy Father’s Lenten message that this word entered my vocabulary. Diakonia, Pope Francis explains, is the universal call to “meet needs and bind the wounds which disfigure the face of humanity.” As we embark on Ash Wednesday, I look to the Holy Father’s Lenten message to identify who and how I can help with my Lenten promise.
Pope Francis’s 2014 Lenten message, “He Became Poor, So that by His Poverty You Might Become Rich,” evokes the spirit of diakonia, especially in situations threatening human dignity. “In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ,” the Holy Father writes. Charity, he says, creates a level playing field, where all of God’s children enrich each other through penance and generosity. Pope Francis encourages us to consider Lenten promises to oppose all forms of destitution—material, moral, and spiritual—and emphasizes assistance for those lacking basic rights like “the opportunity to develop and grow culturally.”
Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis, I’m struck with two questions: Who are the poor with whom I am called to solidarity? And, how do I put this call to diakonia into action?
The Holy Father writes “Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances.” By increasing our reliance on God, we are in the perfect position to share the wealth of Christ with our vulnerable brothers and sisters who suffer without recourse at the margins of society. Although political upheaval abroad and our broken immigration laws often perpetuate social inequity for migrants, we are to do our part to mitigate these affronts to human dignity and humbly seek just reforms.
In these forty days proceeding Easter, I encourage you to join in answering Pope Francis’ call to evangelical poverty. CLINIC and the Justice for Immigrants Campaign will share resources inviting reflection upon scripture, prayer, and fasting. This Lent, consider making immigration reform your Lenten promise, and experience transformation of heart and community.
*Tessa M. Winkler is the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.'s (CLINIC) Public Education Officer