There are, as always, many things going on at Guardian Angels this week when it comes to Justice and Outreach ministry. Unless you’ve been out of range of any communication this past couple of weeks, you know that there has been a storm brewing on the U.S./Mexico border. So many of you who are involved in the outreach work of this parish provide an important witness to both the mercy and justice of God. Each day, you participate in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and, yes, welcoming the stranger. Whenever you’ve been asked to share in any of that work, you have responded. This is one of the reasons why this parish is a great place to be.
This week, there is a particular foundational question before us: Who is my neighbor? The question isn’t new; it’s as old as the Scriptures themselves. The answers begin in the Hebrew Scriptures with the stories of widows, orphans and aliens and the call to protect them. In the Christian journey, Jesus builds on those ancient stories as he answers the question with his every act and, in the end, answers it definitively with his life. As followers of him, we are called to nothing less. For their part, our Catholic Bishops have been both consistent and vocal for decades about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. At their recent meeting, they spoke in unison about the situation at our border, wondering out loud if we had lost our moral compass as a country. Pope Francis has also been clear about the need to defend and care for those who are forced to flee their homeland and protect their children.
In our political lives, few on either end of the ideological spectrum disagree (although we may differ on the fix) with the fact that our immigration system is broken. Now, that system is breaking people in a new and devastating way. I know this is complicated and that there are few easy answers. But what’s not complicated? Knowing that it’s wrong to take a child away from a parent and place that child in something that looks a whole lot like a cage. To paraphrase a colleague of mine who has a blog: Summer is here. Many of us are going to be traveling here and there, most likely with ease and comfort. Let’s not forget the freedom we enjoy and the fact that most of us benefit from this freedom only by virtue of being born in a specific place in time with geographical, economic, or other privileges. On what side of history are we going to stand? Inclusion or exclusion? Protectionism or welcome? Sharing or accumulating?
Those of us who claim the name Christian cannot be like the ones in the Good Samaritan story in Luke’s Gospel who choose to walk by on the other side. Our call is to stand with those most vulnerable, most in need. So we must find a place to stand and then stand there. If that means showing up outside of your legislator’s office, stand there. If that means getting on the phone to call your Member of Congress, stand there. If that means exercising your rosary beads in a more urgent way as you pray for those caught between borders of life and death, stand there. If it means donating to legal funds (look up CLINIC [the Catholic Legal Immigration Network], for a start) that are helping on the front lines of this, stand there. If it means reading all you can, from a variety of sources, to help you understand what is happening, stand there. I hope it will also mean standing in a voting booth the next time the opportunity comes. Wherever you stand, you choose the place and how you will stand there. But please, don’t choose to walk by on the other side.