We pray and fast during this Fortnight for Freedom for one precise purpose: that our Church would enjoy the liberty to do the work we need to do, the work our divine Founder has commanded us to do.
We hear in our gospel reading how the Lord passed through Samaritan territory on His way to Jerusalem. The straight way from Galilee passed through lands occupied by the remnants of the northern tribes of the Hebrew people. Nearly 1,000 years of history had passed since all the children of Jacob had been united in religion and government. The northern tribes had never accepted Jerusalem as a capital or site for the Temple.
Although Jesus grew up in the north, He belonged to the tribe of Judah, the southern tribe whose land included Jerusalem. Galilean Jews like Him usually crossed to the east side of the Jordan to travel south by a safer and more welcoming road, in order to reach the Temple for the annual feasts in Jerusalem. In other words, they generally took the long way, in order to bypass hostile Samaritan territory.
But for His own mysterious reasons, the Lord decided on this particular trip to take the more direct route, straight through Samaria. Which meant risking harsh treatment and rejection at the hands of the unsympathetic natives.
I think maybe we can relate to the emotions that the Apostles experienced when the Samaritans mistreated them. It is a particularly painful, agonizing thing to be mistreated when you are a stranger and a sojourner in a land that is not your own. Maybe some of us can relate to that. I daresay some of us have experienced similar mistreatment from unsympathetic natives, when we traveled, at some point in our lives.
Anyway, as we read, the Lord would have none of the Apostles’ angry reaction. He insisted on the one thing necessary: to keep moving toward the goal. He did not call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans who would not welcome Him. Instead, He kept moving toward the House of God.
Now, honest and good people can disagree about the particulars of immigration policy. The Church has no easy prescription for resolving all the problems involved.
Our elected officials have to figure out how to make our immigration system more reasonable and fair. Hopefully they will consider the whole business from a calm and practical point-of-view. The people who have already made sacrifices to naturalize themselves according to law should not lose out in the bargain. But no one should have to live in the shadows. Every law-abiding resident of our country should have a path to citizenship.
We pray that our legislators will remember the ideals that put our country on the map in the first place, namely: This land belongs to God. It stands open to all the honest and law-abiding people of the world. People belong here not by virtue of who their parents are, but by virtue of being God’s children. This land must remain open to all people who want to live good, hard-working, peaceful lives in the sight of God.
If we make immigration laws that are based on fear and defensiveness, we will not prosper. Instead, may our elected legislators be guided in their deliberations by prudence and kindness. May the United States always be a land that welcomes Jesus and His companions when they wander among us as strangers.
In the halls of the Church, on the other hand, there is no question of “amnesty” at all, because there is absolutely no need for any amnesty here. Every baptized person belongs to the parish in which he or she lives. And any unbaptized person can join by receiving Holy Baptism. There are no other criteria for membership.
As the priest, I find myself concerned about various aspects of the lives of the people who frequent the church building. Are there children who need to be taught the faith? Has everyone been fully initiated into the life of Christ by the sacraments? Do a man and woman want to marry and co-operate with the Lord in adding new members to our church family? Is someone’s conscience burdened in such a way that you need to confess your sins? Do you have a decent roof over your head, shoes for your feet, and food for your table? These things–and things like them–concern me.
One thing that does not concern me when anyone asks for my help–one thing that does not concern any minister of the Church or any apostle of Christ, when someone requests something–is: federal immigration status. The Church does not check immigration papers and never will.
The only concern I have in that area is this: that I would do—that all of us would do–anything and everything we can to help. If there is anything that I can do, or that any of us can do, to help anyone who is trying to make an honest living here in our community, we will do it. That’s what the Church of Christ does.
So may God bless our beloved land and make it fruitful by the hard work of all the people who live here. May we live here together in peace. And may the Church of Christ always enjoy the freedom to follow the Lord towards the heavenly Jerusalem.