I once participated in a workshop where the opening statement was: “Jesus Christ is an alien!” They went on to explain that, being divine, Jesus alienated himself by taking on our human nature. This, of course, came from Paul’s letter to the Philippians with reference to Jesus who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are...” (Phil 2:6-7).
Migration is a far-flung phenomenom of our times. Many people, differently from Jesus, are aliens in our world today – over 175 million people live in country other than their country of birth. Most moved, as did my grandparents, searching for a better life. Some found fulfillment in their dreams. Others became – and still become – prey to exploitation with loss of human dignity, abuse of their human rights, victims of violence and prostitution. Many die while journeying to their dreams.
Missionaries are among those who have migrated to other countries. Being sent, not to seek a better life for themselves but to bring the Gospel to others, required a sacrifice and put into perspective Jesus’ words: And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life (Mt 19:29).
Leaving familiar surroundings is difficult at any time – hardship is felt on both sides of the family relationship – and is especially trying when a family member dies. I was unable to return when both my parents died. When his brother died suddenly, Fr. Jeremy Morais’ absence was especially difficult for his mother. Frs. Bob and Norm Butler were absent when their mother died. Yes, there is a price to pay when one is sent on a mission!
La Salette ministry is charismatically orientated toward reconciliation. This is especially needed today in the area of the undocumented peoples in our country.
We have often referred to our country as a “melting pot” of various cultures and peoples. That came through immigration and made us the “host country.” I think of the work being done by Fr. Norm Farland, M.S., who serves the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wahneta, FL where over 90% of parishioners are migrant workers – many of them separated from family. These workers contribute enormously to our economy. Beside regular parish ministries, his parish ministries deal with migrants’ rights, including that of their family, advocacy for legal protection and documentation.
I also think of the La Salette Shrine in Double Adobe, AZ near the Mexican border where there is a plaque asking for prayers for the people who, in search of a better life, have entered this country and died on the journey. People may have feelings one way or another about the journey migrant people have taken.
I know it helps me to reflect on what Jesus did for us. The biblical text from Philippians quoted above continues with the words: “...he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (v 8). Each and every day we should pray for the “aliens” who need a home, a livelihood and a warm welcome from us (or members of our family who came before us), who were once aliens too.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern for the millions of migrants around the world and stated at his noon blessing on Dec. 4 of 2011: “I entrust to the Lord all those who, often forcibly, must leave their homeland, or who are stateless… While I encourage solidarity for them, I pray for all those who are doing their utmost to protect and assist these brothers and sisters in emergency situations, even if it means exposing themselves to serious hardships and dangers," he said.
“Aliens and Immigration” is such a difficult topic to discuss and, even more challenging, to seek to form just laws. May we always keep in mind the welcoming and generous words of St. Paul: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Ephes 2: 19-20).
•Visit U.S. Bishops’ site to browse Migration and Refugee Services material:
•We also encourage you to visit the Justice for Immigrants site:
•You can also download a prayer card in English and Spanish for St. Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II, when he described her as “a shining advocate of genuine emancipation.”