The Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week in January for almost 50 years. According to the website Justice for Immigrants, it is “an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting . . . immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.” The word “opportunity” in this description is worthy of some special attention. Let’s be honest—many see the “immigrant question” as anything but an opportunity; rather, it is viewed as a problem, a burden and a cause for conflict and division. But maybe there is another way to “reflect on” the individuals and families behind the debates. How can we begin to have a change of mind (metanoia —repentance — turning around) and start seeing them as who they are — fellow children of God?
One answer may be to look at the questions we ask about immigration and immigrants. To arrive at the right answers requires asking the right questions. Our father in faith, St. Francis, spent a lifetime seeking an answer to the question “Who are you God, and who am I?” Jesus asks questions throughout the Gospels that challenge norms and assumptions, teach important lessons or inspire a change of heart. “Which of these three in your opinion was neighbor to the robber’s victim?” (Luke 10:36). “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?” (Matt 6:27). “Woman, where are they, has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10).
Instead of “How can we protect our interests?” perhaps we can ask “How can we generously and joyfully share the abundance that God has made us stewards of?
Instead of looking to politicians and pundits to tell us how to think about refugees and immigrants, perhaps we can seek our answers in the bible, in our churches and in quiet contemplation? The scriptures offer individuals and communities a wealth of guidance on concern for the poor and the victimized at our borders. What do the experiences of the Israelites, the story of the magi (whose arrival “greatly troubled” King Herod “and all Jerusalem with him” MT 2:3), the Egyptian sojourn of the Holy Family and the words of Jesus say about welcoming and caring for strangers?
We have a great opportunity to show love and compassion to our neighbors rather than succumbing to our fears and insecurities. What a gift it is to have so much to offer, to be a light to the nations! How fortunate we are to have the means to show hospitality to the poor!