The noted Jesuit author Father James Martin, S.J., wrote this and while his words might make us uncomfortable, the question raises challenges each of us needs to consider. Originally a post on Father James Martin's public Facebook page, this reflection on the call to treat migrants and refugees as Christ went viral, and the accompanying video (see link above) has been viewed by over 3 million people and shared over 50,000 times. “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” President Trump has announced that he will order the construction of a Mexican border wall, the first in a series of actions to crack down on immigrants, which will include slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States, and blocking Syrians and others from what are called “terror-prone nations” from entering, at least temporarily. These measures, which mean the rejection of the stranger, the rejection of the person in need, the rejection of those who suffer, are manifestly un-Christian and utterly contrary to the Gospel. Indeed, last year, Pope Francis said, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel." But maybe you don’t want to listen to Pope Francis. Maybe you think that he was being too political. Or maybe you think Pope Francis is too progressive for you. Maybe you think that you have a right to refuse a person in need. And that you have the right to protect yourself. Well, we do have the right of self-protection. But refusing the one in need because you want to protect yourself, especially when the other is in desperate need and obvious danger, is not what Christianity is about. It’s about the opposite. It’s about helping the stranger, even if it carries some risk. That’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell. But if you still don’t want to listen to Pope Francis, then listen to Pope John Paul II, St. John Paul II, who wrote dozens of times about refugees and migrants. “Seek to help our brother and sister refugees in every possible way by providing a welcome…Show them an open mind and a warm heart,” he said. And as if predicting our current situation, he said, "It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations.” For this is an issue of life or death. Migrants flee from profound poverty, which causes suffering and can lead to death. Refugees flee from persecution, terror and war, out of fear for their lives. This is, then, one of the church’s life issues, so dear to St. John Paul II. But maybe you don’t want to listen to St. John Paul. Maybe you’re not Catholic. Then listen to the voice of God in the Book of Exodus, speaking to the people of Israel: “You shall not oppress the resident alien [i.e, the refugee] for you were aliens yourselves once, in the land of Egypt.” Every American heart should be stirred by that. Other than the Native Americans, all of us are descendants of immigrants. We were aliens ourselves once. But maybe you don’t want to listen to the Old Testament. Then, in the end, listen to Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, he provides a litmus test for entrance into heaven. At the Last Judgment, he will say to people, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” And people will say, “When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you?’ And he will say, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Jesus himself is speaking to you from the Gospels. It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors. “Today,” St. John Paul II said, “the illegal migrant comes before us like that ‘stranger’ in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.” So, reject these measures and welcome Christ. Call your local legislators and tell them to care for Christ. Write to the White House and ask them to protect Christ. Show up at town hall meetings and advocate for Christ. And pray for our brothers and sisters who are refugees and migrants. Because if you do not, and you reject Christ, then it is their prayers that you will need.
Every day, the Lord invites us to say “Here I am,” and to “talk” with Him. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he urged faithful to realize that their relationship with God must be a true one so that when we eventually tell him ‘here I am’ it is for real. Commenting on today’s readings, particularly a Letter to the Hebrews, Francis said when Christ came into the world, Jesus said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire. In burnt offerings and sin offerings, you took no delight. Behold: here I am, I have come to do your will, Oh God.’ Jesus’ words here, Francis said, “sum up a concatenated history of ‘here I am,'” the history of salvation. After Adam hid out of fear from the Lord, the Pontiff pointed out, God called and heard the answers of many men and women who said to Him: “Here I am. I am willing,” including the positive responses starting with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and finally those of Mary and Jesus. It’s a real dialogue, the Pontiff explained, not just a series of automatic responses, because “God speaks to those whom He calls”. Always in Dialogue, Very Very Patient “The Lord is always in dialogue with those whom He invites onto this path,” the Pope noted, stressing, “He has a lot of patience, lots of patience.” To illustrate this, the Jesuit Pope referred to the Book of Job which contains a long dialogue between Job, who does not understand, and the Lord who answers his questions and “sets him straight.” “At the end, what does Job say to God?” the Pope asked. Job’s response, he recalled, was: “Ah, Lord, You are right: I knew you only by hearsay but now my eyes have seen you: Here I am!” Christian life, Francis stressed, is a string of “Here I am,” of seeking to continuously do the Lord’s will. Our ‘Here I Am’ Today’s liturgy, Pope Francis said, invites us to reflect on our own way of saying “Here I am” to the Lord. “Am I going to hide like Adam and not respond? Or, when the Lord calls me, instead of saying ‘Here I am’ or ‘what do you want from me?’ Do I run away like Jonah, who did not want to do what the Lord was asking him? Or do I pretend I am doing the Lord’s will, but only superficially, like the doctors of the law that Jesus condemned because they were pretending; or do I look the other way like the Levite and the priest did before the poor injured man who had been beaten by robbers and left to die…” “What kind of answer is my answer to the Lord?” “Often,” the Pope also observed, “people tell me that when they pray they get angry with the Lord… this too is prayer! The Lord likes it when you tell Him to his face what you are feeling because He is the Father,” he reminded. Before giving in to our temptations to hide, be fake, or look away, Pope Francis suggest, let us learn our way of saying “Here I am” to the Lord and of doing His will in our lives.
There are three stages of the priesthood of Christ: He offers Himself; He intercedes for us; He will return to bring us to the Father. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis pointed this out to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on the day’s reading from the Letter of Hebrews, which speaks about Christ as the Mediator of the Covenant that God has made with human beings. Speaking on these stages of His priesthood, the Jesuit Pope noted that the first is the redemption. While the priests of the Old Covenant had to offer sacrifices every year, “Christ offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins.” With this marvel, “He has brought us to the Father… He has re-created the harmony of creation,” the Pope noted. The second wonder is what the Lord is doing now, namely praying for us. “While we pray here, He is praying for us, “for each one of us,” Francis stressed, and “intercedes.” “How often, in fact, are priests asked to pray,” the Pope reflected, because “we know that the prayer of the priest has a certain force, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass.” Unforgivable Blasphemy The third wonder will be when Christ returns; but this third time will not be in relation to sin, but rather, it will be “to establish the definitive Kingdom,” when He will bring all of us to the Father: While there is this great wonder of the three stages, Francis warned, “there is also the contrary: the ‘unforgivable blasphemy.’” “It’s hard to hear Jesus saying these things, but He says it, and if He says it, it is true. ‘Amen I say to you, all will be forgiven the children of men’ – and we know that the Lord forgives everything if we open our hearts a bit. Everything! The sins and even the blasphemies they speak – even blasphemies will be pardoned! – but the one who will have blasphemed the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in eternity.” Lord’s forgiveness To explain this, the Pontiff referred to the great priestly anointing of Jesus, which the Holy Spirit accomplished in the womb of Mary. “Even Jesus as the High Priest received this anointing. And what was the first anointing? The flesh of Mary with the work of the Holy Spirit. And he who blasphemes about this, blasphemes about the foundation of the love of God, which is the redemption, the re-creation.” “‘But the Lord does not forgive that wickedness? [you might ask].” “No!” Francis responded, stressing, “The Lord forgives everything!” However, he lamented that the one who says these things is closed to forgiveness. “He doesn’t want to be forgiven! He doesn’t allow himself to be forgiven! This is the ugliness of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: It does not allow itself to be forgiven, because it denies the priestly anointing of Jesus, accomplished by the Spirit.” Pope Francis concluded, inviting those present to consider that here on the altar the living memorial is made” and to ask for grace from the Lord that our hearts might never be closed – might never be closed! – to this wonder, to this great, freely-given wonder.”
Rocco Palma (Whispers in the Loggia) posted a particularly appropriate prayer for Inauguration Day:
"As the 45th President of these United States takes office at Noon today, we return again to the prayer first delivered in 1791 by the nation's founding shepherd, John Carroll of Baltimore. Oft-misdubbed as a "Prayer for the Nation" or "for Government," per Carroll's original notes, the following text was intended to seek God's protection upon "all ranks of society and the Welfare of the Republic".... We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.
We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.
We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
We pray for his[/her] excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.
We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.
To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Here is a recent joint statement on Christian Unity issued in Europe - perhaps worth our consideration on this side of "the pond": Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, The love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14)! Great truth is contained in this short verse from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that inspired this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The history of Christianity in Europe is marked by sorrowful periods of division, mutual condemnation, and even violence. As a number of churches prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, we are reminded anew of our difficult past. Recalling these events and confronting our history is a precious opportunity to renew our commitment to the healing of wounds and overcoming divisions. We turn to Christ, who reconciles all people and all creation to God, to guide us in this work. In humble gratitude for this gift, we work for reconciliation through both word and deed. Today, we must also celebrate how we have grown in learning to work together and cultivating meaningful theological dialogue. The Council of European Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of European Churches have enjoyed 45 years of collaboration through its Joint Committee, and on other issues of common concern. Also the shared suffering and joy of the world brings us together. Our solidarity with Roma people, our commitment to ecological justice, and prayers for unity within the Body of Christ is strengthened through this relationship. The multiple crises facing Europe and its neighbours bind us still more closely together. War and conflict, political uncertainty, migration and ecological challenges, material and spiritual poverty touch all lives in Europe and beyond. Along with these crises comes hope. Together we can bear witness to the reconciling love of Christ through the safeguarding of Creation, solidarity with the poor, and protecting the dignity of all God’s people. Through dialogue we will deepen our understanding of one another. Through common witness and action we will build bridges. Through prayer we will learn to recognise the Holy Spirit at work. The way forward can not always be clear or easy, but we always recall in our heart the truth that “the love of Christ compels us.”
What should one do when things are dark …. Pope Francis says to hope and hold on…. According to Vatican Radio, during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis expressed this as he urged Christians to be courageously anchored in hope, and never just ‘still.’ Francis drew his inspiration from today’s Letter to the Hebrews, which spoke about having courage to go forward and how this ought to be our attitude toward life, just like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. No Living in the Fridge The Letter, the Pope also pointed out, also speaks of the laziness,the opposite of courage, which Francis summarized as: “Living in the fridge, so that everything stays the same” Saying the life of a Christian is a “courageous life,” Francis criticized “Lazy Christians” who do not have the will to go forward, make things change and be new. “They are lazy, “parked” Christians: they have found in the Church a good place to park,” Francis said, noting when he says Christians, he is also talking about laity, priests, bishops, “everyone.” “But there are also parked Christians! For them, the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.” Hope, Francis continued, is what makes Christians courageous, while those who are lazy are “in retirement.” No Life of Retirement “It is beautiful to go into retirement after many years of work, but, he warned, “spending your whole life in retirement is ugly!” Hope, on the other hand, is the anchor that we cling to in order to keep fighting, even in difficult moments. “Hope is struggling, holding onto the rope, in order to arrive there. In the struggle of everyday, hope is a virtue of horizons, not of closure! Perhaps it is the virtue that is least understood, but it is the strongest. Hope: living in hope, living on hope, always looking forward with courage. Hold on ‘Yes, Father – anyone of you might say to me – but there are ugly moments, where everything seems dark, what should I do?’ Hold onto the rope, and endure.” Francis said that it’s normal to make mistakes, so fear of erring shouldn’t deter us from ‘moving.’ Pope Francis concluded, inviting us to ask ourselves if we are closed Christians, or Christians of the horizons; and if in ugly moments we are capable of enduring, with the knowledge that hope does not disappoint “because I know that God does not disappoint.” “Let us ask ourselves the question: How am I? How is my life of faith? Is it a life of horizons, of hope, of courage, of going forward; or a lukewarm life that doesn’t even know to endure ugly moments?” “May the Lord give us this grace,” Francis said, to overcome our selfishness, and raise our heads to Him to move forward.
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John