The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” These words of James in this Sunday’s 2nd Reading were undoubtedly lived to the full by our Founder, Joseph De Piro. Fr Martin Cilia sustains this in his boom “Found Among Sinners” (pp. 111-117):
Solidarity with all
Christianity is first of all a way of life, rather than a way of thought. Merely to study Christian truths and gain intellectual understanding of them is not enough… It is only by living the Christian life that we come to understand the full meaning of the Christian message.
Letting go and letting God be inevitably led De Piro to social involvement. In a world in which poverty was the norm De Piro could not but get involved and give his share to be there for people who needed help. Karol Wojtyla defined solidarity as:
A natural consequence of the act that a human being exists and acts together with others. Solidarity is also the foundation of a community in which the common good conditions and liberates participation, and participation serves the common good, supports it, and implements it.
Jesus was the inspiring force behind De Piro solidarity with all. In Jesus he saw a missionary who redeemed people by being with them and by showing them the Father’s love. He writes:
You can tell Jesus that he did not have to be born in a stable in the cold winter; you can tell him he did not have to suffer for us; you can tell him he did not have to shed his precious blood for us. He will answer that he could not help doing all this for us. His heart could not but love us; and he could not help trying to make us understand his infinite love for us. This heart that has loved human beings so greatly.
It was this conviction and desire to be one with the Lord that opened him to “a selfless dedication to the needs of others.” Solidarity was not an option but a basic constitution of De Piro’s spirituality. Paul writes to the Corinthians “I will gladly spend myself…for your sakes.” Spending oneself for others is an important dimension of a true missionary spirituality. As John puts it: “the way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay dawn our lives for our brothers.” This implied for De Piro a daily self-giving. As Luzbetak puts it: “the most painful and most important but generally unrecognised form of self-immolation is the call to small but real and continuous daily sacrifices.”
It was such deep solidarity with all what prompted De Piro to write his canticle of love in the Rule. He makes Paul’s words his own and proposes them as a way of achieving this attitude of solidarity in daily living:
To attain and enjoy such a way of living one must be ready to bear the miseries and weaknesses of others, and help in carrying each other’s crosses…One must not have at heart his own interest but that of others following Paul’s advice “love is patient.” One must bear patiently any harm caused to him, and return by good actions. Envy is to be avoided and one should not be proud if possessing earthly things, should not be bad, double-faced or proud but the thought that he possess God should must fill his life and one must not consider anything belonging to him except that of having God and God alone. If someone is offended in any way, he must not have any resentment and must not pay back, but try to think well of others. Meanwhile everyone should be cautious and prudent when speaking of himself and of others. In the case of his brothers in religion, one must keep such high opinion of them, even to consider them as his own superiors and show them the respect due to them and be careful not to order or scold anybody… In trying to satisfy the desires of others, one should not do it to the detriment of one’s strength, but be always ready to help whether asked or otherwise knowing that the action done is well received by the brother. When speaking to each other of one’s own defends, missionaries must be careful they are acting rightly.
These words reflect the heart and attitudes of De Piro. Solidarity meant for him loving others. Service was the expression of his search for God and not just the desire to bring about social change. His writings show clearly that solidarity called for community, and communal love.
In reading the signs of his times De Piro felt that he could live out his solidarity in society by being involved in various fields. I will only focus on two main areas; his involvement with orphans and his involvement in politics.