Life is not fair and we all learn this lesson sooner or later.
We are tested in today’s readings to embrace and live in the world of grace rather than the world of earning and merit. The Gospel calls us to love God with all our being with our heart, our mind and our soul; and, we must love our neighbor as our self to be in right relationship. Both commands are inclusive and equal to the other.
What if that love is not earned or achieved by our standards of merit or laws? In the first reading from Exodus the Lord says: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourself in the land of Egypt.” We are being called to live in the world of grace because our very lives are a gift from our generous and loving God. In Matthew 25:35 we are called to welcome the stranger because when we welcome the stranger, we are welcoming Christ. Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are some of the strangers that we are called to welcome.
For Catholics this is a moral issue; this is about who we are as Catholics. We are all made in the unique image and likeness of God, and we are all welcome.
Immigrants have an inherent dignity, a dignity given to them by God our creator. As a result of the Incarnation, immigrants are the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore, they have shared membership in our society and our Church as a result of their relationship with Jesus Christ. As a people of faith, we believe in the Trinity. The image and likeness of the Trinity is that we are relational, personal, mutual, inclusive, in communion and an accompanying people.
The question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the question we are asked on a daily basis. Our neighbor is the person God puts in front of us. Our neighbor is the person in need, the one that we reach out to and take responsibility for because of compassion and mercy and the memory that we once were aliens. On Easter Sunday Christians celebrate our redemption and atonement, and we thank God that we are all beneficiaries of forgiveness and amnesty.
None of this is easy when we live in a world of merit and earned standards. The real challenge is to live in a world of grace, to bring about the Reign of God – God’s movement and activity in the world.
Being inclusive, breaking boundaries and challenging laws led to Jesus’ death. Philippians teaches us that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and that there are laws greater than the laws of any country. Yes, laws and secure borders are important but laws can also break people rather than help people. Not all of our laws are pro-life. I have lots of people that say to me, “But Sister, they are illegal.” God does not make anyone illegal or illegitimate. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I break the law by speeding or don’t quite catch that green light. Now, maybe that never happens to you. But, let’s be honest, my reasons for speeding are not comparable to immigrants leaving their homeland. Immigrants, like Mary and Joseph immigrating to Egypt, are immigrating to save their children and because they believe in family, family unity, and because God is calling them to live out their dignity and shared membership.
Why is the law breaking them? Because our immigration system is broken, antiquated and needs to be fixed. And we, as a Catholic community, and in support of the Bishops Conference and their statements on immigration, are called to radical hospitality, to welcome the stranger and to dare to risk a caring response. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want security, then let’s give security, if we want life, then let us give life, if we want opportunities, then let us provide opportunities.”
Jesus’ mission included liberating the captives and setting free those who are oppressed. This is also our mission as the Body of Christ. Let us pray for all immigrants living in the shadows and feeling silenced and oppressed. If they are sent back to their country of origin, they could be killed, raped, or forced to be part of gangs. Our God calls us to be neighbors who are pro-life and ensuring life. I trust your prayers and support of our immigrants particularly as they are trying to live out the Paschal Mystery right now, of the passion and the cross, let us let them know that there is also a resurrection.
Sally Duffy, SC
Sister Sally Duffy, SC is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati and retired in the summer of 2017 as President/CEO of the SC Ministry Foundation. Sally has served in various administrative capacities including hospital President/CEO and VP Student Affairs. Sally’s current board service includes: TriHealth System, Price Hill Will, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. In February of 2017 Sally completed four years as the chair of FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) and her nine year term on the board. Sally’s degrees include: M. Ed., M. PA and M. Div. Recent honors include: FADICA Charles Carroll Award in Catholic Philanthropy, Katherine Drexel Award for Catholic Philanthropy, 2017 YWCA Cincinnati Career Women of Achievement, 2017 Cincinnati Enquirer Women of the Year, Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Mount Saint Joseph, Recognition of Appreciation from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Co-Executive Producer of the Gabriel Award documentary “We Shall Not Be Moved: Catholic Sisters of New Orleans.” Sally is one of the Co-Chairs of the Child Poverty Collaborative with the goal of reducing 10,000 children in poverty and 5000 adults over the next five years in Cincinnati, Ohio.