Who is my neighbor? A reflection on the immigrant

Who is my neighbor? A reflection on the immigrant July 13, 2019

Jesus was asked: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He answered: “You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus was then asked: “And who is my neighbor?”

He responded with the masterful parable of the Good Samaritan.

To inherit eternal life, we must be like the Good Samaritan.  We must love those who are most unlike us.  We must love those we struggle to love.  We must love those we deem unlovable so that they become lovable.

It is providential that this is the Gospel passage this Sunday when many are experiencing tremendous fear due to the announced immigration raids.

What I find most troubling today is the prominent rhetoric that dehumanizes the immigrant: documented or undocumented.  There has been a noticeable overall darkening of words and actions in the past few years.  What does it mean to love your neighbor in the context we are living in now?

Facts have become irrelevant.  Immigration policy has become divisive.  Ideology appears to have superseded common sense and the awareness of reality.  Through it all, the enduring message of the Gospel challenges us to recognize the dignity of the other.  The words of Jesus always apply: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

Our immigration system needs a major overhaul that should not be hijacked by politicians.  It is unacceptable to generate fear and hatred toward the other, and within the other.  Has mainstream society lamentably lost the sense that we are talking about human beings at the border?

When I was newly ordained, ICE arrested nine men at a nearby trailer park.  One of the older men of the community who was undocumented himself confided in me that he was glad they had been arrested because they were dealing drugs.  If ICE raids will arrest and deport people such as these, go ahead.  But do it without causing panic and fear among the vast majority of undocumented immigrants who are working hard in hopes for a brighter future.  Do it without threatening the millions of immigrants who have had every door shut and have taken extraordinary means to provide for their families.

The Catholic Church has and will continue to be an advocate for the downtrodden and voiceless, and this issue is not an exception.

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself.”

Picture is mine, all rights reserved.  Cusco, 2016.

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