Welcome the stranger – do not tear gas the stranger – especially when they are women and children. This is an image one might expect to find in an archive of 1930’s German history – not the American present.
Yes, I’m posting two days in a row – shocking, right? Anyway, with thoughts of immigration on my mind, this song is on my mind, it speaks to my Monday mood.
No one is more aware than I am that this issue began before the current administration. This administration has taken the situation to horrific ends. Part of the song deals with one of the band members, a #DREAMer named Jose “Pepe” Carlos who was brought here to the United States when he was five years old.
Elie Wiesel, a giant of a human being and now of blessed memory once said:
“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”
Open borders are not the answer, but fear and hatred are also not the answer. I’m not sure what the best path forward is, but I am sure that we are not on that path.
Today’s Gospel reminded me of the now well documented photographs of objects confiscated from those who have been apprehended at the border, El sueño americano by Tom Kiefer. For those with any doubt, this has been verified. The rosaries received a lot of attention, but all of the items truly struck me, including the copies of El Nuevo Testamento that was so important to have. There were also the other items, the everyday things like combs, toothpaste, and so forth, as well as items from children.
As if it were not enough that we took away rosaries and New Testaments, now we take their children too. I can’t help but wonder what God thinks of all of this. Ultimately what we have really stolen from people is what little hope and dignity they had left after fleeing lives of extraordinary poverty, extreme and violence, lives with no future. If we stole their dignity and their hope, then I think we are really in trouble.
Right now I am thinking of the martyred apostles sent forth by Christ, unwelcome, considered unwanted and dangerous. To this day, many are killed bringing the light of Christ to others in dangerous places. We all know we cannot take anything on that final journey home to God whether we are an apostle or a beggar, a prophet or a king. In the Kingdom we arrive with only ourselves. Our hope for the Kingdom is for our dignity and integrity to be fully restored in the presence of God. Don’t you think that kind of reconciliation and restoration, at least to some extent, is what God asks of us here? This is our journey in Christ, to go out into the world as beacons of hope and light in his name, disciples always bearing the light of that same Jesus Christ who welcomed, healed, and saved all.
During times like these, I cannot help but think of Bl. Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down as he celebrated the Eucharist. Romero will be formally recognized as a saint on October 14, 2018. A tweet from Tobias Winright, Ph.D. prompted me to look for this particular scene from the film Romero, starring Raul Julia as the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. (I will add that you will see a representation of assassination in the video, be advised.)
In his last passionate homily on March 23, 1980 Romero said:
“I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”
On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down as he consecrated the Eucharist.
We cannot remain silent before abomination, and we must at some point choose to follow God before all else. We must also, if we heard today’s Gospel, choose to love our enemies. Romero fought for justice, with hope for peace – which would include loving those very enemies that we fight. May the Blessed Romero intercede for us as we discern and make our choices for present justice and future hope. We cannot wonder who the next Romero is, we must be our own next Romero, whatever the cost.
Here are some things that are very biblical as I understand the Bible…
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
That’s it for today. Pray for a better world, and then take on the actions to bring forth that world. It is hard, it is scary, it is intimidating, but it is necessary.
“Bawana yu Nawe” is Swahili for ” the Lord is with you.” If we believe in God, if we follow Christ, do we believe that the Lord is with us, but not with others?
I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”
How are we called to do those things in our own lives? The first thing might just be to pray, especially if we feel fearful or challenged, and to ask God to open the door to our hearts. As that door opens, the first migrant enters – it is Christ himself.
That is what is meant by the words “the Lord is with you.” With YOU. With ME. With EVERYONE. That literally means every single person, every single human born unto this earth. Everyone, without exception. What we do with that migrant Christ who presses in need upon the door of our heart is up to us.
The Lord is indeed with us all, but it is up to us to let God in. What will we do? Block the way, or fling wide the gate? Will we cite laws and resources? Will we claim fear of the “other?” Or will we, as Pope Francis asks us to, “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate?” These are all verbs, requiring action. We can sit and fret, or we can get up and do what the apostles did in today’s Gospel – get up and go, follow Christ. To do that means to bring down the barriers of fear, and to spring into movement. It does not mean we will not be afraid as we go, it means that we know the Lord is leading the way, so we will follow. Remember –“Bawana yu Nawe.”
See below for update!
Things on my mind today… how we easily pick and choose those for whom “the dignity of all human life” matters for and who it does not matter as much for, and also Odoardo Focherini. The phrase “dignity of all human life” no doubt brings forth images for you, and meaning. I’m guessing that you may have never heard of Focherini, unless if you, like me, read about him in today’s Give Us This Day. Reading about him on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents reminded me that perspective and context are everything, and that makes picking and choosing our moral precepts problematic.
Liturgically in the church today is the day when we recall the massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod. Enraged to learn that the magi had deceived him, old Herod decided it would be a good idea to just go ahead and murder the children of Bethlehem. You know, he was throwing a wide net “just in case.” We wouldn’t want any dangerous babies around, would we?
Obsessed as I am with matters of immigration debate, the irony is not lost on me and I find myself with a bitter taste in my mouth. Last week on December 21 it was reported that the White House was considering a policy where children would be separated from their parents in cases of undocumented human beings crossing the border illegally. You can read about that here. Honestly, reading terms like “family units” or “unaccompanied alien children” (also known as “UACs“) makes me sick to my stomach. This is how dehumanizing human beings, all born with the dignity of human life in them, takes off.
If you find yourself feeling Continue reading