Fr. George Smiga
September 1, 2013
William Allen White was one of the great newspapermen of the last century. He was the editor of the Emporia Gazette, and he was a hardcore Republican. But on one occasion as a reporter he was assigned to cover a Democratic fundraising event in his native state of Kansas. When the clergy person who was meant to give the opening prayer suddenly canceled, the organizer of the event saw White sitting in the audience and approached him to ask whether he would be willing to give the invocation. White responded, “No, I don’t think I can do that, and for two reasons. First of all, I’m not skilled in the art of public prayer. And secondly, I really don’t want the Lord to know that I’m here.”
Political convictions run deep. They often divide us, today perhaps more than ever. So to give a homily addressing a political issue is a dangerous enterprise at best. But it is one in which I feel impelled today to engage. The homily you are about to hear is neither a Republic homily nor a Democratic homily. It is an honest attempt to relate the words of Jesus’ in today’s gospel to the political realities in which we live.
In the gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that when they hold a dinner, they should not only invite their family, friends, and neighbors, but should also invite the poor, the crippled, and the blind. This attitude of welcoming and inclusiveness is not a unique characteristic of Jesus. It comes from his Jewish heritage. Throughout the Old Testament, God is consistently presented as the champion and advocate for the lowly. God continually calls Israel to welcome the immigrant and the refugee so that they might live among them. Jesus knows this sense of welcoming and he makes it his own. In the gospel of Matthew he tells us that when we welcome the stranger we welcome him (Matthew 25:35).
Now it is on the scriptural basis that Catholic teaching on immigration is founded. We live in a world which is divided into countries. But the land and the resources of each country comes as a gift from God, a gift that is not meant to be hoarded but shared. Yes, we are Americans, Mexicans, Germans, Egyptians, and Japanese. But prior to those distinctions of nationality, we are all sons and daughters of one God who has both created us and saved us. It is on these religious foundations that Catholic social teaching on immigration insists that each country has two fundamental duties both of which need to be implemented and neither of which can be ignored. The first duty is that every country is to secure its borders and within those borders to pass just laws that promote the common good. The second duty of every country is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and out of respect for the human person. In countries that have been particularly blessed, like our own, there is an increased responsibility to welcome those who seek security and a livelihood for their families, so that they can live in our midst.
It is upon these scriptural and moral principles that we move now to politics. People of every political party admit that our immigration system is broken. There are presently over 11 million undocumented individuals living in our borders. The United States Bishops have long advocated for immigration reform based upon five moral principles which are enumerated today in your bulletin. [Our bishops support Immigration Reform which: (1) Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons living in the United States; (2) Preserves and strengthens family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system; (3) Provides legal avenues for low-skilled immigrants to come and work in the United States; (4) Restores due process for individuals caught up in the immigration system; (5) Promotes efforts that will address the root causes of migration, such as poverty and persecution.] But chief among these principles is a path to citizenship for those undocumented members living in our midst. Past attempts to pass immigration reform have failed. But recently a group of legislators both Republicans and Democrats have come together with a proposal that has passed the United States Senate with an overwhelming majority and is now in front of the House of Representatives with its future unsure. This is the time for us who are followers of Christ to contact our representatives in the House and to encourage them to make this new immigration bill law. It is not a perfect bill. No legislative efforts are. But it is a significant advance over our present immigration policy.
The way to contact your representatives can be found in the bulletin and on our websitewww.stnoel.org where there is also additional information about these issues. I do encourage you to act to let your representatives in the House know that this bill deserves passage. And remember, when you do so, you will not be following a Republic or a Democratic strategy. You will be following the teaching of Jesus.