Yesterday was a crazy day for me, so I didn’t read the newspaper until I got home from work, and thus, not until then did I focus on the fact that yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. As I read the New York Times op-ed page (yes, we still read the NYT, even though we’ve now been in Minneapolis for almost 11 months), which contained memories of Kennedy written by his children, I recalled the sadness and loss so many of us felt when we learned RFK had been killed.
The piece in the NYT that most struck me was that written by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who recalled her father’s outrage at injustice. What he most wanted his children to understand is that we who are privileged have an obligation. In describing the aftermath of her father’s visit to the Mississippi delta, Townsend says, “He reiterated his message of personal responsibility, which was familiar to the whole family. My father had often quoted St. Luke, that from those who have been given much, much will be expected….[O]n that evening, his outrage was especially obvious, his sense of injustice palpable. And he wanted his children to feel the desperation of those children the way he had – and to see the need to do something positive about it.”
From those who have been given much, much will be expected. Kennedy understood that “much” requires not just that we look and feel bad at the suffering we see, but that we “do something positive about it.” Kennedy’s message to his children is a message central to our faith. In his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, John Paul II described the principle of solidarity. As expressed by him, solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and perservering determinatiion to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”
We are each individually responsible for all. We have been given much. How do we use it?