Jesus was an immigrant

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Mt 2:14).

The angel’s message to St. Joseph was clear. He needed to flee from Bethlehem to protect Mary and Jesus from the wrath of King Herod. And so, as soon as Joseph woke from his dream, he gathered Mary and Jesus and fled by night to Egypt.

Jesus was driven from his birthplace by violence and forced to seek shelter in a foreign land.

The summer of 2014 brought a wave of unaccompanied children to our southern border as they fled the drug-fueled violence and poverty of Central America. The stories that these children brought with them are heart-wrenching.

The reaction to these children arriving was mixed. Some people welcomed them with compassion, while others worried about the burden that their arrival would place on our country.

On Jan. 3, a new U.S. Congress began work, and among the issues on its plate is the sensitive topic of immigration. The issue has divided our country, but as we begin a new year, I want to suggest a change to the framing of the immigration debate.

Americans are not anti-immigrant, as some activists claim. We are a people who believe in the rule of law. But our current laws are not adequate for the situation being faced by those who come seeking refuge. They fail to take into account that many people are driven from their homeland by violence or crippling poverty.

This is what needs to change in our debate. It needs to be framed around respect for the human person and what our laws can do to protect and promote it. Immigration reform should take into account both our citizens’ needs and the dignity of those who are forced to leave their home to survive.

When Jesus speaks about the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, he specifically lists giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty and welcoming the stranger, among the behaviors that characterize those who will be welcomed into heaven. And this should be our response to those who come to us seeking refuge.
In his message for the 2014 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis urged Catholics to see every human being as a child of God. “He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.” This is especially true when they are children.
As the issue of immigration is discussed in your families, workplaces and among friends, I encourage you to not think in terms of political party but to take the side of those who are vulnerable and are in search of refuge.

May the Lord grant to us the courage to live according to the Gospel and the strength to love as he does!

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash