Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Praying for immigration reform

Archbishop José H. Gómez
This column is adapted from the homily that Archbishop José H. Gómez delivered at the annual Mass for immigration on July 21. This year’s celebration was marked by special prayer and reflection related to comprehensive immigration reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

By Archbishop José H. Gómez

I know many of you are deeply involved in the political process to bring justice to our immigration system. I want to say thank you for everything you are doing for the poorest of the poor, for the least of our brothers and sisters!

There is a time for public action and a time for prayer. Prayer should always come first, before our political action. Because we always want to make sure we’re trying to do God’s will and not our own will.

So this is a time for prayer. A time for us to stand in God’s presence and open our hearts to his mercy and love. A time to reflect on our lives and our country in the light of God’s Word, which we have just heard proclaimed.

The readings today from sacred scripture remind us that God comes to us in the person of the stranger, in the person of the immigrant.

That’s the constant teaching of the Bible — from beginning to end. For Judaism, hospitality and care for the stranger are a sacred duty. The same thing is true for Christianity. In the letters of the apostles we read: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

We are a people who know the truth — that we are all God’s children. That our lives are sacred and special to God. Every one! We don’t get our dignity from having the proper documents or the right paperwork. Our human dignity comes from God.

That’s why this country is unique. Because the missionaries and statesmen who founded this country believed what Jesus taught. That all men and women are created by God — with equal dignity, rights and freedom.

The founders of this country dreamed of a nation where people from every race, creed and national background could live as brothers and sisters. As children of the same God.

And this country has always been a nation of immigrants. A beacon of hope, a light shining in the darkness. A golden door that opens to those seeking a better life for their families.

That’s what we’re working for in our public action. That’s what we’re praying for today.

Immigration is about more than immigration. It’s about renewing the soul of America. It’s about helping our nation live up to its beautiful promise of equality and dignity for all people.

So we pray today for courage to keep working for what is right and what is true.

We ask God to forgive us for not acting sooner to fix this broken system. For not acting sooner to bring justice to those who are living in the shadows, at the margins of this great society. We ask God to help us overcome our selfishness and our indifference.

There are people dying in the deserts just beyond our country’s borders. People who are just trying to be reunited with their loved ones. There are people being exploited every day in fields and factories. People who are just trying to feed their families.

So we pray for those people today. And for everyone responsible for the cruel failures of our immigration system.

We pray for all the boys and girls whose parents have been deported. For the mothers and fathers who won’t be coming home for dinner tonight. Who may never see their families again. We pray for the women left to raise their children in poverty. For the undocumented kids who dream of going to college.

Immigration reform is not about numbers or technical issues. It’s about these children. It’s about these mothers and fathers. It’s about the soul of America. And our souls, too.

When we think about the Gospel, we are aware that in his human life Jesus was always a stranger.

Jesus came into this world as a child in the womb. And there was no room for him at the inn. When he was an infant, his family — his mother Mary and Joseph her husband — was driven into exile by political violence. They lived as immigrants and refugees in Egypt. Throughout his whole ministry Jesus never had a home. He had no place to lay his head.

Jesus Christ became a stranger for our sake. To teach us how to love. And he taught us to find him — he taught us to find God — in the poor, in the prisoner, in the immigrant. Because these people are the most vulnerable in society. Because they are the ones most in need of our protection and our care.

Jesus said God will judge us by our love for him in the least of our brothers and sisters. So immigration is not only a matter of politics. It’s a matter of our relationship with God.

We pray today that God will change our hearts — and change the hearts of our neighbors and our leaders. May God give us all today a new commitment to charity and hospitality. A new sense of our duty to fight cruelty and injustice. May God’s holy angels accompany the immigrants in our midst on their journey to justice. And may we make this a society where no one is a stranger in God’s eyes.

Archbishop José H. Gómez's new book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available for pre-order at the Cathedral Gift Shop or online at www.olacathedralgifts.com.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gómez at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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