God’s love has no walls

Bishop Rodriguez celebrates immigrant Mass in Spanish on feast of Christ the King

The Sunday after Thanksgiving took on special meaning for the immigrant community in northern Colorado. On the solemnity of Christ the King, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for all immigrants, their families and those who support them.

The feast of Christ the King holds a special meaning for the Mexican community, since during the religious persecution at the beginning of the 20th century, many Christians bravely proclaimed the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”), before being killed.

Hundreds of immigrant and non-immigrant Catholics attended the celebration presided by Bishop Rodriguez. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

Around 1,500 faithful participated in the Eucharist.  They arrived early – some in buses chartered by their parishes – united in community to remember that Christ reigns in their hearts and to lift up their petitions to the Almighty.

“Many of our brothers and sisters hold a deportation order in their hands,” said Bishop Rodriguez in his homily. “They can’t sleep thinking about the moment the order will be executed and about what might happen to their families.”

The bishop spoke to the many youth who “see their dream of a good future turn into a nightmare,” and to those adults who “fear to be sent back to the places they fled because of the violence of drug trafficking or of gangs that destroy their children.”

The prelate then reflected on a passage from the Gospel of the day in which Jesus says, “I was a foreigner and you welcomed me.” He highlighted how “Jesus identifies himself with the immigrant and receives, as if done to himself, whatever is done to the immigrant: welcome or rejection. In the immigrant, Christ is welcomed or rejected.”

The faithful lifted up all those who await an uncertain future, in the hope of a comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

Bishop Rodriguez also united his voice to that of all the bishops who ask for a law that grants the youth not only a temporary pardon of deportation – as is the case with DACA – “but a full possibility of remaining in the country, without having to be separated from their families.”

Likewise, he pointed out the need of an extension of the Temporary Protected Status permits for the brothers and sisters of El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, and requested a comprehensive reform that allows a way of legalization for immigrants: “May families not be separated, may the kids that come alone be protected; and may the migration system be revised with justice to fully respect the dignity of the human person and the family.”

Immigrants and refugees from all over the archdiocese prayed for families to remain united and for human dignity to be respected. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

After Mass, two women who have benefited from the DACA program gave their testimonies.  Aline Cervantes, 19, said: “DACA gave me the opportunity to attend college. But before being a dreamer, I’m a daughter of God. He gave me DACA, only he knows what will happen. Jesus understands our distress and pain. We must have hope and faith.” She also encouraged the youth present to not fill their hearts with resentment against their non-Hispanic brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, Michelle Fierro, 24, said that on the same day she thought of buying her ticket to return to Mexico on June 12, 2012, she was surprised to find that an executive order could temporarily improve her status as an undocumented immigrant.  “I felt that God was speaking to me, telling me that this was the place for me,” Fierro told the Denver Catholic en Español. “I began to see many differences since I was very young. I felt that I was less, and I wondered why I should remain here if I couldn’t have a good future.” Although the end of DACA was announced, she holds a conviction: “We must have faith. It is God who governs us, we should say, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ and follow the plan he has for us.”

The congregation waves white flags with the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” during the final hymn of the Eucharistic celebration. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

At the end of Mass, the faithful sung fervently and effusively the hymn “Tú reinarás” (“You will reign”), waving white flags. They then began to yell, as many fellow countrymen did on the verge of death, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” to the King who, as bishop said, “invites us to trust, and watches over us: for those on one side and for those on the other; since for his love, there are no walls. And he invites us, above all, to maintain hope: He will reunite those who are dispersed.”

COMING UP: ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’: Auxiliary bishop to celebrate Mass for immigrants and refugees

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The Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Jorge Rodriguez, will celebrate a Mass in Spanish for all immigrants and refugees at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Nov. 26, on the feast of Christ the King.

The Church walks with the immigrant

Bishop Rodriguez affirmed that the growing attention that the archdiocese has given to immigrants is primarily a response to Jesus’ calling in the Gospel.

“Holy Scripture is very clear about the care and hospitality toward the immigrant,” he told the Denver Catholic en Español. “‘The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Lev. 19:34). Also, Jesus commanded us to do the same when he called us to love our neighbor.”

The urgency to walk with the immigrant community is also a response to Pope Francis’ invitation. He said in his visit to the United States in 2015, “Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses. Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So, do not be afraid to welcome them.”

“No, we don’t have financial or secondary intentions, as someone has said – probably intending to silence the voice of bishops regarding the support for the immigrant community,” Bishop Rodriguez explained. Instead, “[this initiative] is born out of our personal love for our immigrant brothers and sisters in our parishes.”

On the Feast of Christ the King

The Mass will be celebrated on the feast of Christ the King, highlighting the historical significance this feast carries for many Hispanics. During the religious persecution of last century’s “Cristero” War, many Mexicans gave up their lives proclaiming, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ, the King!”).

“This chapter in history allows us to recall God, the Father’s providential care for each one of us, and the assurance that the final victory belongs to Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Rodriguez.

The auxiliary bishop sees the importance of this message of hope to the immigrant community, as it faces many difficulties in legal processes.

He assured that the trials aren’t few: “many of our youth see their future dreams threatened… siblings and friends, who came to work honestly, face deportation… [and] parents, couples and families are torn apart.”

Amid such difficulties, the Church accompanies the immigrant community.

“We want to lift up the intentions of the immigrant community in this Mass,” said Bishop Rodriguez. “For the Psalm says, ‘Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (37:5).

Bishop Rodriguez calls the faithful to participate

The auxiliary bishop asked all the faithful to “listen, in the depth of their hearts, to the voice of Christ: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you’” (Jn 13: 34).

“The Church doesn’t ask the faithful to break the law,” he continued. “Rather, it asks for a just law to be passed – a law that serves men and not vice versa.”

He requested that Denver Catholics support the U.S. bishops in the fight for a comprehensive immigration reform.

Bishop Rodriguez also persuaded the faithful to seek accurate information regarding these topics, and to find good perspectives on social issues, such as Msgr. Jose Gomez’s “Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation.”

Finally, he encouraged them “to consider this ‘problem’ not as a mere social, political or economical issue: we are speaking of men and women with human dignity and fundamental rights,” he said. “They are beloved children of God.”

Mass for Immigrants and Refugees
Presided by Bishop Jorge Rodriguez
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Nov. 26, 2017
12:30 p.m.