Friday, November 19, 2010

Immigration Reform: A Reflection from a Catholic from Nebraska

“I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me - Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Gospel (Luke 19:45-48)
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

The Gospel Reading sparks many memories of hearing this Gospel for years and the homilies given on it. A common theme I have heard is that of the righteous anger of Jesus.

A 2010 issue globally that individuals are addressing is immigration on all continents. I see this Gospel Reading integrating with that. Is the ‘house of prayer’ that I participate in welcoming to the stranger? A church of parishioners and clergy who demonstrate voice and courage in welcoming immigrants? Or, are parishioners using their money ‘in a withholding manner’ if other parishioners welcome immigrants?

Selling and thievery comes in many forms, including ideas, philosophies, strategies, etc. What is being sold in our parishes? Strategies to further the needs of the majority parishioners? Strategies to further the needs of our ‘own tribe’? Strategies to keep out those not who are not like the majority of parishioners? Who are not like ‘our kind of people’?

I write this Reflection from a state (Nebraska) and a country (the United States) where such issues are front and center for Catholic parishioners. An Arizona state immigrant discrimination law is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. A similar law will be introduced in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature in January. A small town 45 minutes from where I live is now divided because of a city ordinance they passed relating to immigrant discrimination. I hear stories about Catholic churches not nurturing the inclusion of immigrants, of diocesan clergy leaders being told their parishioners will withhold money if such were to be done, etc. Over decades many have observed that the most segregated places in the U.S. on Sunday mornings are the churches. Have we considered the 2010 opportunity placed before us, in multiple parts of the globe, to welcome the immigrant and not be at the angry end of Jesus’s statement of thievery? How do we spend our time, energy, money, voice, and behavior on this issue? Are we thieves in any of those aspects in Jesus’s houses of prayer (churches and the universe)?

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