I’ve decided I’m going to post Pope Francis’ prayer intentions every month.
This one is challenging for those of us in the West because the Holy Father is asking us to do something that runs against our basic instinct for survival. Americans have always welcomed those in need, and we have a long history of reaching out to help others.
It is unfair and untrue to characterize the American people as indifferent to the suffering of the world. We have demonstrated a willingness to do things which no other great power in history has ever done to build, help and lift up people all around the globe.
Today we are challenged to find ways to continue with our basic goodness in the face of what amounts to an existential crisis for the whole Western world. Western nations are being flooded with immigrants and refugees whose viewpoints and cultural mores are antithetical to the founding principles of their own culture. Some — not all, but some — of these people refuse to assimilate. They have become violence vectors, breeding terrorist attacks and destruction.
There is a lot of name-calling and shaming being thrown about to try to bully people into standing down and not voicing their concerns about all this. At the same time, there is also a lot of vicious racist talk directed at people who are simply trying to live their lives and become part of the new societies in which they live.
It is not easy for anyone to wend their way through this morass of conflicting ideals and needs.
When the Holy Father asks us to pray for refugees, he is doing the right and the Christian thing. He has stubbornly hewed to the Gospel line in the face of backlash and hatred directed at him because what he is saying runs against the easy impulses that drive the rest of us.
That is to be expected. Anyone who honestly follows Jesus is going to be attacked. They will be attacked because Jesus is not convenient. He does not fit into our politics or our desires for self. He is Lord of All of us, including those who we do not like or fear.
I could say that these are difficult times, but all times are difficult to the people living them. What I will say instead, is that these are the challenges we face today, in our time. Difficult as it always is, our challenge as followers of Christ is to do the Jesus thing, not the smart thing.