In our message series leading up to Advent called, More Than Lip Service: Living Out An Uncomfortable Religion, we’ve been taking an honest look at some of the uncomfortable statements made by Jesus in the gospel readings.
Love is at the center of this week’s gospel when Jesus distills the law into a simple, two-fold directive: love God with everything you’ve got and “love your neighbor as yourself.” While that may not sound very uncomfortable, loving authentically is the greatest challenge of the Christian life.
God repeatedly reminded the ancient Israelites that they must love and care for three groups of particularly vulnerable people: widows, orphans, and aliens (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 24:17-21; 26:13, 19; 31:12; Leviticus 19:34; 25:35; Jer. 7:6; Mal. 3:5). Since women were unable to provide for themselves, a widow without sons to support her would be reduced to poverty. Fatherless orphans suffered for the same reason. Aliens were strangers in the land and therefore at the mercy of their hosts.
Today, our nation provides a safety net for many people. But immigrants still suffer. On September 5, Archbishop Cordileone issued a statement on the termination of the DACA program. “America at its best,” he wrote, is “a nation that welcomes immigrants, affording them the opportunity to attain the ‘American dream’ while they in turn give back to the society that has welcomed them.” For this reason, the Archbishop pledged that the Catholic community in San Francisco would “continue standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters, assisting them in exercising their rights and assuring them that they are not alone.”
Indeed, Pope Francis has spoken out on immigration issues since the beginning of his papacy. The U.S. bishops also issued a pastoral statement at the turn of the century entitled, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, which sets forth the three basic principles of Church teaching on immigration.
The first principle is that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. This is based on the Christian teaching that the goods of the earth belong to all people and that individuals do not have the right to use private property without any regard for the common good.
The second principle is that a country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration. While people have the right to migrate, no country is obligated to accept everyone who wishes to resettle there.
The third principle is that a country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy. Therefore, a just nation may not simply choose to exclude all immigrants or criminalize the mere attempt to immigrate. Thus, the undocumented who have managed to enter a country must be treated with compassion, according to their human dignity.
The social teaching of the Church begins with the truth that we are a human family entrusted to one another’s care. Although it may be uncomfortable, loving our neighbor means caring for the most vulnerable among us, including the stranger, the alien, and the foreigner. For more information on Pope Francis’ Share the Journey campaign, visit our website at www.stbrendanparish.org.
Father Roger Gustafson