I was stopped cold this morning at Mass in our recitation of today’s psalm. The words were almost too painful to say, given our president’s recent travel ban on refugees trying to enter our country.
“The Lord keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed….
The Lord sets captives free.”
“The Lord protects strangers.”
If I were sitting at an airport with the few possessions I had left after fleeing a place like war-ravaged Syria, I would wonder where that justice is. Where that God is, who promised to set me free. Where the people of faith are, for that matter, those who supposedly live by such words, the people who profess to believe that they are to follow the Gospel, which outright declares its support for the poor and wretched of the earth.
The Book of Deuteronomy puts it even more bluntly:
‘Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
I used to wonder how a victim of one of Hitler’s concentration camps could possibly manage to retain faith in the face of such horror. Faith in humanity or faith in God.
Many of them, I suspect, couldn’t. I don’t know if I’d be able to. If I were crying out day after day for help, for sustenance, for some end to what I was enduring.
The fact is, God doesn’t usually swoop down and with some swish of the divine magic wand open gates and free the oppressed. God tends to leave that work up to his faithful, indeed, entrusts that work to the faithful. We are explicitly called to minister to the sick, the poor, the abandoned, the imprisoned, the stranger. In today’s second liturgical reading, we are reminded of that: “Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.”
Are we remembering our calling? Or are we preferring the much more comfortable state of blindness, to others’ needs, to our own responsibility?
Not to mention to our own nation’s tradition from its inception of welcoming immigrants to our shores.
I don’t know what action each of us is called to in response to this latest ban on refugees. I understand that most of us don’t have the ability of a leader like the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to say–to America’s shame–Come on in! We’ll take you! We welcome you!
But each of us is called to do something.