Last weekend, at several Fourth of July gatherings, I invited the guests to tell us all what country their ancestors came from and approximately when. They happened to be largely from Europe. Only one had native American roots, but we were almost all of immigrant stock. At one of those gatherings, an Italian-born man with a lilting accent stood up .He had become a US citizen in 2004. Each year, since then, on July 4, he has read aloud the Declaration of Independence. At our celebration, he recounted the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of in 1776. The silence was profound as we listened to him read excerpts from the document.
Someone had to make room for our ancestors, welcome them, give them clothes and shoes, if only hand-me-downs. Sometimes breadwinners came, who then earned enough to send for the rest of the family. Cousins and folks who had come from the same towns back home helped, too. A leg up. Whole families came.
For the last few weeks, our newscasts and newspapers have been full of stories about immigrant children who fled, largely alone from Central America. A few adults came with them. Some children told how they had been marked for death by gangs. Survival meant to flee to the north, across Mexico, which also had its share of dangerous gangs.
The scenes are stunning. Bravery, trust in God and the clothes in their backs was all some of them had.
Hear Jesus and take his words to heart.
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “ Let the children come to me and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19.13-14)
Courage will be required of us if we are to speak publicly about welcoming today’s immigrants, most especially the children. Carry the word to your neighbors, families and friends, as well as to the officials whom we have elected to serve the common good. Our God and our church encourage us: Do not be afraid.