Young People Need the Flavor of Solidarity, Not Bland Consumerism

In Slovakia, Pope Francis recently said:

The bread spoken of in the Gospel is always bread that is broken. This sends a powerful message for our life as a community: it reminds us that true wealth does not consist simply in multiplying the things we have, but in sharing them fairly with those around us. The broken bread speaks to us of frailty; it demands that we take especial care of the vulnerable in our midst. No one should be stigmatized or suffer discrimination. Our Christian way of looking at others refuses to see them as a burden or a problem, but rather as brothers and sisters to be helped and protected….

Organized and efficient structures will not suffice to improve our life as a human community. We need flavour, the flavour of solidarity. Just as salt gives flavour only by dissolving, so too society rediscovers its flavor through the gratuitous generosity of those who spend their lives for others. It is good for young people in particular to be encouraged in this, to feel that they have a share in shaping the future of their country, so that they can take it to heart and enrich its history with their dreams and their creativity. There can be no renewal without young people, yet they often end up being disenchanted by a consumerism that makes life bland and dull. In Europe, all too many people live lives of weariness and frustration, overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of life and incapable of finding reasons for inspiration and hope. The missing ingredient is concern for others.  When we feel responsible for someone else, this gives flavour to our lives and enables us to realize that what we give away is really a gift we make to ourselves.

At the time of Christ, salt gave flavour but it was also used to preserve food, to keep it from spoiling. It is my hope that you will never allow the rich flavours of your finest traditions to be spoiled by the superficiality of consumerism and material gain. Or by forms of ideological colonization. In these lands, until just a few decades ago, a single thought-system stifled freedom. Today another single thought-system is emptying freedom of meaning, reducing progress to profit and rights only to individual needs. Today, as then, the salt of the faith acts not by reacting in worldly terms, by engaging in culture wars, but by quietly and humbly sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom, especially by the witness of charity, of love….

The pandemic is the great test of our own time. It has taught us how easy it is, even when we are all in the same boat, to withdraw and think only of ourselves. Let us instead set out anew from the realization that all of us are frail and in need of others. None can stand apart, either as individuals or as a nation.