MASS FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
Sr. Eileen Reid and I were happy that we were able to take part in this special liturgy – and particularly happy at the ease with which we found a parking space in downtown Washington, the site of St. Matthew’s Cathedral. (Thank you, Claudine!)
Many of our fellow worshippers were Hispanic families, reflecting what is probably the largest single immigrant group in the Archdiocese. In fact, much of the liturgy was in Spanish, and the presider, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, preached in both Spanish and English. The bishop offered thoughtful reflections on the gospel text, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. However, as he was preaching, I found my thoughts going back to the words of Pope John Paul II on one of his visits here, words that made a deep impression on me. The Holy Father spoke with great intensity. “America!” he thundered. “Lazarus is at your gate! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?”
I thought of what we have done in recent years. In terms of official policy, our response has been callous and punitive. We have built walls, separated children from their parents and caged them, told desperate people to apply elsewhere before turning to us, drastically reduced the number of immigrants we allow in, ignored or circumvented the laws that mandate a hearing for asylum seekers. Yes, individuals and groups are reaching out to those in our midst, are advocating and working for change in our policies. But the official stance of our country is still in place, and is a cause of shame.
All the efforts being made, both individual outreach and advocacy, need to continue and intensify. The reasons for this are compelling on many levels. When we look at our personal history, most of us count very few generations back to the immigrant ancestor who first set foot on our soil. When we look at our country’s history, the moral rightness of giving welcome to those seeking freedom and opportunity is clear, as is the enrichment given by diverse races and cultures. But there is a much deeper reason, one that has its source in the Gospel we profess to live by.
The Rich Man, Luke’s Gospel suggests, knew that Lazarus was there (he names him in the closing scene), but ignored him. Lazarus merited no attention. Dives, the name tradition gives the rich man, did nothing wrong – except that he DID NOTHING.
There is another parable, in Matthew 25, that features and contrasts those who do something and those who do nothing. The people in both groups are bewildered as they ask the ‘King’: “But Lord, when did we see you hungry,…a stranger,…in prison?!”
We know the answer to that question.
It is not just Lazarus who is lying at our gate.
- Sr. Rosemary Mangan, RJM