This is not Right. This Should not be.
The images are haunting. The first was of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy, whose body washed ashore in Turkey in September 2015 as his family tried to escape to Greece. The second one was of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his not-yet-two-year-old daughter Angie Valeria Martinez. They were face down in the water and weeds of the Rio Grande, having drowned as they tried to cross the river, making their way from El Salvador to the United States.
Both photos brought me to tears. My heart cried, “This is not right! This should not be!” In between these two horrific photos have been far too many other images of children being separated from their parents, parents separated from their children – most of whom have ended up in cages until (if) their cases are heard. Those images remind me of the World War II concentration camps in Europe and the internment camps in the United States.
Lambs among Wolves
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.”
Jesus sent out the 72 disciples with nothing; in other words, just like those who are poor, who have nothing.
Those who come to our borders are poor. They have nothing other than the clothes on their backs. Here in the United States, they are not allowed in because they are poor – at least those at our southern border. They are escaping violence, poverty, and drugs. I firmly believe that if there was a way out of poverty and a way out of violence, they would choose to stay in their home countries. Instead, they are lambs among wolves, caged away and ignored.
Sent in Hopes of Being Received
All of these refugees are our sisters and brothers, daughters and sons of our loving God just like we are. They, too, are a part of the Body of Christ. Most of them, if not all, have probably been baptized, and by virtue of their baptism, they are sent – sometimes by direction, other times by desperation. They are sent in hopes that they will be received, that they will be able to share their gifts with others for the life of the world.
Jesus said, “If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on [them]; but if not, it will return to you…. Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feetーeven that we shake off against you.'”
Speaking from my experience as a citizen of the United States, this reading is an indictment on us for what we have done and are doing to the presence of the Lord, the Body of Christ, in our midst. Today’s gospel is held up to us like a mirror and should wake us to the heart of the gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus loved by accepting those who were “different” according to the law. He loved by challenging the status quo. He loved by treating each individual with compassion and dignity. As his disciples, the same is expected of us. When God’s children arrive on our doorstep, strangers in a foreign land, knocking and hoping to be received, what does that knock require of us? What image, what picture, do we wish to reflect?