Tuesday, October 13, 2015

There’s Work for Us All to Do and to Do Together

Dear Friends,

Yesterday’s news no longer figures into today’s media outlets. That’s the simple fact of contemporary communication worldwide. But yesterday’s human stories go on despite their lack of coverage. Take the vast number of migrants who have fled from Iraq, Syria, and other lands of the mid-East and Africa. If they made it to Europe at all, their gratitude to God/ Allah, kind people, smugglers who delivered, is vast and varied. But once in Europe, they continue to suffer from uprootedness, hunger, sickness, misery of all kinds, including their inability to decide where to go next. In Hungary, we saw how migrants were stopped in their journey by security agents and fences. They were stopped by a nation that seems to have forgotten how, during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, millions of Hungarians fled to Austria and were taken in. One of the marks of humanity is to forget the good done to us and refuse to pass it on.

We want all we can have for our own: the cozy house, the protective door, a full larder, our own family around us. But if having everything for our own means that others have nothing or very little, then our mindset is not of God.

While we may not be on the front where these life-stories in Europe are being played out, we have our own share of migrants, legal and illegal to work with here in Rochester. The come from Bhutan, Nepal, the lands south of Mexico and other places with names unfamiliar to us. Here in Rochester also, we have seen rejection and violence.

Whether thinking of the people out there or here, our part is to make the mind of Jesus our mind. It’s to him we turn.

Next Sunday, we’ll hear how James and John came to Jesus, seeking to be at His right hand and left hand in glory.  No, Jesus said, that was not his to give. Moreover, the important thing was to be the servant of all. (Mark 10.44) All.  Not just the ones we like or choose to serve, but all.  Wrapping our minds around that idea of serving all is hard.  Perhaps our own greatest individual contribution to the work of welcoming immigrants is to help shape our national dialogue and ultimately, the American mindset about welcoming the stranger. This is something we can do, and encourage others to do, if we choose.

“Welcome” is antithetical to “chasing away”. As a nation, we know about welcome, but we also know about chasing away. We did that to people who had a prior claim on the land when we were the immigrants. In 1838-1839, Native Americans – Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and others – were led through a forced relocation from their tribal lands I the southeast US into what were called the Indian Territories west of the Mississippi. The National Park Service has recently completed the marked trail of tears through nine states, to follow their trek  with reverence. What our government did then was to chase away people who had a prior claim to the land. Now some entrenched groups of Americans want to chase away people from abroad who have outstretched hands, who want to join us here, who want to dry their own tears shed on the desperate trail they traveled.  There’s work for us all to do and to do together.
“The liberation of many is a greater task than the lifetime of Jesus Christ. It will take longer and demand more than the lifetime and life of any individual disciple. The community that is willing to give life and not measure the return is the community that has understood the mystery of discipleship.” (author unknown) 
~Sister Joan Sobala