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. [Click para leer en español.]
We hear in our Sunday 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 River 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.
Anyway, as we read, the Lord would have none of the Apostles’ angry reaction to this. He insisted that everyone stay focused on the one thing necessary: to keep moving toward the goal.
Now, honest and good people can disagree about the particulars of immigration policy. There is no easy prescription for resolving all the problems involved. But I think we can safely say we find ourselves at a crossroads as a nation. Will we continue to welcome immigrants? If we speak about immigrants with fear and defensiveness, we will not prosper. America has prospered precisely because we have been a country that welcomes Jesus and His companions, when they wander among us as strangers.
Now, maybe we Catholics are just silly idealists on this subject? After all, here in the halls of the Church, we exercise no border controls at all. Every baptized person belongs. Every baptized person belongs. And any unbaptized person can join our church by receiving Holy Baptism. There are no other criteria for membership. If you’re baptized, you’re a member of our church.
As you know, we read the same Sunday readings every three years. Three summers ago, the US Congress labored through the summer on “immigration reform.” A lot of people of good will spent a lot of energy—me included—to try to find a solution to the problem of immigrants living in the shadows here in America, utterly unprotected by our laws, because they don’t have certain ‘papers.’
Now, three years later, I think it’s fair to say that we find ourselves in a much, much bleaker situation.
What kind of nation are we? Do we think that two wrongs can make a right? Is it right to respond to craven acts of violence by defensively imagining that we can seal ourselves off from danger? If we think deporting immigrants and shutting our borders will keep us safe, we utterly delude ourselves. The more closed-off and self-centered we try to become as a country, the more violence will find its way to us.
What we need is real faith. Faith in the sure and loving hand of God. Over and over again I find myself stunned by the technocratic impulse of these times. When the shooting happened in Orlando, before the dead were even all identified, much less peacefully buried–before we stopped to pray in silence for the repose of their souls–the shouting about how to “fix” it erupted.
But, before we get all depressed about our political situation, let’s remember this: Here on earth we have no lasting city.
A whirlwind carried the prophet Elijah from this world up to heaven. Our Savior, when He walked the earth, had no home in which to lay His head. He revealed to us what our life here really is: a pilgrimage. An arduous journey toward a goal. All Americans are immigrants, to be sure. But even more so: All Christians are emigrants. We are on our way somewhere else.
We do not see our destination. We believe in it. Why can’t we see it? Why can’t we see the heavenly Jerusalem? Because it is invisible? No. The angels know how brightly that city shines—a million times more splendid than the Manhattan skyline on a starry night. We can’t see the heavenly homeland now because our eyes do not possess adequate seeing power. Our minds, that see by faith—our minds perceive reality more comprehensively than our eyes. That is, provided we live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
Let’s pray and fast this Fortnight for the freedom to love our neighbors with pure hearts. In the heavenly Jerusalem, chaste and true love is the very light and air by which everyone sees and breathes. We pray for our own interior freedom, and we pray for our country, that our laws will always serve the cause of justice, protect the innocent, and foster the peace and tranquility of brotherly love.