If collaboration has a necessary aspect, it is the strong bond of unity that makes us rely on one another.
To better fulfill our unique mission —and let us not forget that it is to announce the Good News and to serve those in need— it is essential that we support one another as members and as branches of the Vincentian Family.
First, a point of clarification on whether there is one mission or two. Make no mistake about it: there’s only one. From the Vincentian standpoint, one evangelizes by serving and one serves by evangelizing.
1 Corinthians 12 is very interesting. It’s good to re-read it every now and then.
Verses 6 and 7 tell us: “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” There are many valuable teachings in these two sentences. Do we realize…
- …that there are “different kinds of working” (not just mine, or that of my little group, my branch, parish, community…!)?
- …that is not we, but rather “it is God who is at work” (we are instruments of God!)?
- …that he “is at work in everyone,” not just in a few (we all have a mission to share!)?
- …that our gift is “for the common good” (we all are given gifts, but to share them, they are not for our own benefit!)?
We already know, then, that we are all needed, and that it is God who acts through us.
But Paul does not stop there… the text keeps going further: we are necessary, certainly, but more than this, we are indispensable. Let’s look at this:
Beginning at verse 12, Paul compares the Church to a body —let us be so bold as to imagine that he is addressing the Vincentian Family. Just like the parts of the body, we are called to live in unity: “A body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body.” In unity: letting the lifeblood, the spirit of God, flow through each of the members, who all share the same spirit. And in need of each another: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” Without the hand, how does one take hold of objects? How does one see them without the eye? Without hearing…, how does one listen?
Necessary… indispensable… and then Paul goes on delving deeper: Who is more necessary? St. Paul answers the question for us: “The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary.”
I invite you to dwell on this verse. Maybe you think sometimes that you have nothing to offer, that your work can’t be compared to the great works of great Vincentians we all love and follow… Paul is telling you that you are the more necessary for the work to go ahead, for the poor to be evangelized and be served with the dignity they deserve, as we would serve Jesus Christ himself. I invite you say to yourself: “I am necessary”… because it’s true! It is God’s Word! It does not matter whether our work is big or small… the smaller, the more necessary!
There’s another striking aspect in this statement of St. Paul. Do you realize he is telling us that the poor are the ones who are most needed in the Body of Christ? The weaker… are all the more necessary. In the film Monsieur Vincent, St. Vincent tells a Daughter of Charity: “It is only because of your love that the poor will forgive you the bread that you give them.” An act of love (to give bread) becomes a denunciation of injustice (to forgive that we have to give out bread). Charity turns the poor into channels for the redemption of our personal and community life (and that’s what Jesus wants. Read Matthew 25; it is indisputably clear). The poor are necessary, among other things, because there is nothing more necessary than receiving forgiveness and, thus, salvation.
Let’s look at our dear Vincentian Family in this year when we reflect on collaboration: we cannot dispense with collaborative work (let us remember once again: we are a body, not unrelated departments). But to collaborate is not easy: it requires time and will, not just ideas and desires. Without the former, there is the risk that collaboration will end up being a nice idea that passes unnoticed into the annals of Vincentian history, once its time comes to an end.
We need others’ support to carry out our work. Without it, our work will be incomplete.
We are, therefore, necessary and in need. Givers and receivers of help. Let’s be radical: in the Vincentian Family, we need to work together to survive. Is this saying much?
Let me finish with a challenge:
Let us not be islands anymore… but Body.
Javier F. Chento