January 26, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Solidarity with migrants, refugees, and strangers among us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2241).

Here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, we are participating in the two-year-long “Share the Journey” campaign initiated by Pope Francis in collaboration with Caritas Internationalis (the Church’s international relief organization), Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services. The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of the plight of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are forced to flee their homes due to economic, political or religious strife.

“Share the Journey” seeks to remind us all that the millions of people worldwide who are fleeing war, persecution and poverty are our sisters and brothers. These are real men, women and children, not abstractions or statistics. They have names and faces and personal histories. God knows each one of them by name. He loves them and considers them to be his precious children. What’s more, God has challenged us to welcome them as guests, not reject them as aliens, and he has told us in no uncertain terms, “Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do to me” (Mt 25:40).

When he announced the “Share the Journey” campaign, Pope Francis said, “Christ urges us to welcome our brothers and sisters with our arms truly open, ready for a sincere embrace, a loving and enveloping embrace.”

This is characteristic of Pope Francis—to use vivid physical imagery to underscore his teaching. The Holy Father tells us, in effect, that Christ is not content with half-hearted gestures. Simply writing a check and dropping it in the mail to one of the relief agencies is not enough. Along with our financial support, the pope says, Christ wants us to have warm, enthusiastic contact with our sisters and brothers who are poor and vulnerable.

That’s not easy for most of us who lead busy lives filled with work and family obligations. Still, opportunities for hands-on engagement with those in need are not hard to find if we look for them.

Indianapolis Catholic Charities has welcomed and cared for migrants and refugees for more than 42 years. And many parishes throughout central and southern Indiana work hard to provide food, shelter, clothing and access to quality health care to all who are in need, including people who have left their home countries in search of better lives. Ask your pastor, or any Catholic Charities agency, how you can help. They will gladly direct you to the nearest place that will welcome your participation!

Our Church extends to all the unconditional love of Jesus. We welcome strangers and work to make everyone feel at home. We support our nation’s efforts to secure our borders, and to regulate the processes that govern immigration and refugee resettlement.

However, we insist that in all instances the rights of individuals and families be protected, and we place concern for human dignity above political or practical expediency. We take this responsibility so seriously that Church teaching points out that as citizens we may be obliged in conscience not to follow laws or regulations that are contrary to the fundamental rights of persons or the teaching of the Gospel (See Catechism of the Catholic Church #2242).

“Share the Journey” is not a political campaign. It is a way of promoting solidarity with members of our family who are in particular need of our loving support. However, “Share the Journey” does remind us that as citizens we have a responsibility to promote the common good—for the sake of our nation and the community of nations. Peace and prosperity should be available to all peoples regardless of their race, ethnic origin, and or religious preferences. We should be open to all, welcoming of all and respectful of both the differences that divide us and the fundamental humanity that unites us.

Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph (the Holy Family) were once refugees who fled the political tyranny and vicious brutality of King Herod. They were migrants who spent years living in a foreign land, a situation now shared by millions of people who have left their homes desperately seeking safety and a better life.

Whatever we do to the least of these brothers and sisters, we do to Christ. Let’s share their journeys. Let’s welcome them with “a loving and enveloping embrace” in Jesus’ name. †

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