Posts Tagged ‘Catholic church’

Good Friday’s Implications

March 21, 2008

    In Matamoros, Mexico, on this Good Friday, the plaza is full of people watching the Via Crucis enacted before our very eyes. This passion play has been reenacted annually for well over a thousand years, yet it is still charged with emotion and meaning. A young man is beaten and hung to a wooden cross directly in front of the giant Catholic church, while centurions with over-sized helmets look on and a voice recants the Gospel narrative. Offstage, a woman cries in the heat of the day. In the crowd, everyone of us has forgotten our sunglasses, the glare off the tops of police cars, the smell of elotes and raspas nearby – all of us are focused on this ultimate story of redemption.

    I enter the cool of the church, my mind filled with memories of Easters past. The palpable memory of gumming the bread and swirling the grape juice around in my mouth, newly cognizant that these elements of the Communion represented the body and blood of a man 2,000 years ago. These memories from almost 20 years ago come back to me, just as I am sure memories came to Mary as she stood at the foot of the cross. My eyes adjust to the lighting within this cathedral. Mary is at the front of the church, head down in mourning for her son lofted up on the cross. I bow my head and am overcome with the feeling of hopelessness that must have swept over the disciples. What if this were the end? What if the kingdom of God ended on Friday and was never followed by that joyous Sunday?

    Tears drying on my sunburned cheeks, I sit in the plaza reading Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. King under a gazebo. Tamale vendors, shoe-shiners, whistling chiflado kids, men selling sweet dulces. As I read these words I have read before in a new context, I am struck by its perspective on Jesus’ death that Friday so long ago. King writes,

    Suddenly the truth was revealed that hate is a contagion; that it grows and spreads as a disease; that no society is so healthy that it can automatically maintain its immunity…The words of Jesus ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ were more than a figurative expression; they were a literal prophecy…We were all involved in the death of [this man]. We tolerated hate; we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence in all walks of life; and we tolerated the differential application of law, which said that a man’s life was sacred only if we agreed with his views…We mourned a man who had become the pride of the nation, but we grieved as well for ourselves because we knew we were sick.” (145)

Fresh meaning to this Gospel story I’ve read hundreds of times. In Jesus’ day, just as in our own, the poor and the stranger were being exploited by those in power. To the extent that people of faith tolerate this immoral profiting from the pain of others, we are condoning hate and the hurt of the least of these. If Jesus is present in the least of these, we must recognize his face in every stranger, legal or extralegal, every person, regardless of race. When we give into the fear and hate of our fellow man, the passion of Christ happens once more.

    The best definition of sin that I’ve ever heard is an “absence of God.” For those 3 days while Jesus lay entombed, the whole world was stuck in this negative peace without the very Son of God. In this Plaza Mayor, it occurs to me that the word for without in Spanish is sin. Without. Without.

It must be a sin that so many of these men and women around me here in this border town of close to 500,000 are without basic necessities and without hope of fair wages. Without.

It is surely sin that when these people come looking for a better life in the United States they are refused legal means, repeatedly denied family reunification, and queued in a quota system that can take from 10 years to never. Without.

It cannot be anything but a sin that 12-20 million U.S. residents live without papers, without protection of law, without insurance, without welfare, without legal protection, without basic human rights, without a means to earned citizenship. Without.

It is a shameful sin that so many bright students of mine look at a bleak future, unsure of whether they will have the right documents to attend the best universities in this country, schools they have earned the academic right to attend. Without.

May we all use these 3 days leading up to that blessed Resurrection Sunday to think of those around us who are “without.” As James 4:17 so clearly states, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” If we know the good which needs to be done, if we see the calling of God in the strangers around us, if we recognize the face of Jesus in our neighbor and do nothing, our lives are sin- sin meaning, sin purpose, sin faith, sin love, sin the chance to bring the hope of Sunday to the “least of these,” or ourselves.

People of Faith United For Immigrants- The Catholic Church

February 7, 2008

    The Catholic Church has a long tradition of aligning itself with the immigrant. Pope Benedict XVI, in his World Day of Migrants and Refugees speech in 2007, said, “In the drama of the Family of Nazareth we see the sorrowful plight of so many migrants…[T]he human person must always be the focal point in the vast field of international migration.” Because of the “inescapable network of mutuality” that King discusses, no part of humanity, however privileged, can ignore any other person’s situation.

    We are our brother’s keeper, just as he is ours. Humane immigration policies are a means of being brotherly; militarized borders are a sign of a refusal to help and a desire for distance. The Catholic Church has come out strongly against our current immigration laws and the proposed border wall. The Catholic Bishops in the U.S. put together the following “Five Principles to Guide Immigration Policy” for the 2008 election.

 

1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.

This principle states that a person has a right not to migrate. In other words, economic, social, and

political conditions in their homeland should provide an opportunity for a person to work and

support his or her family in dignity and safety. In public policy terms, efforts should be made to address

global economic inequities through just trade practices, economic development, and debt relief.

Peacemaking efforts should be advanced to end conflict which forces persons to flee their homes.

2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

When persons are unable to find work and support themselves and their families, they have a

right to migrate to other countries and work. This right is not absolute, as stated by Pope John

XXIII, when he said this right to emigrate applies when “there are just reasons for it.” In the current

condition of the world, in which global poverty is rampant and political unrest has resulted in wars

and persecution, migrants who are forced to leave their homes out of necessity and seek only to

survive and support their families must be given special consideration.

3. Sovereign nations have a right to control their borders.

The Church recognizes the right of nations to protect and control their borders in the service of

the common good of their citizens. However, this is not an absolute right. Nations also have an obligation to the universal common good, as articulated by Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris, and

thus should seek to accommodate migration to the greatest extent possible. Powerful economic

nations, such as the United States, have a higher obligation to serve the universal common good,

according to Catholic social teachings. In the current global economic environment, in which labor

demands in the United States attract foreign laborers, the United States should establish an immigration

system that provides legal avenues for persons to enter the nation legally in a safe, orderly,

and dignified manner to obtain jobs and reunite with family members.

4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.

Persons who flee their home countries because they fear persecution should be afforded safe

haven and protection in another country. Conflict and political unrest in many parts of the world

force persons to leave their homes for fear of death or harm. The United States should employ a

refugee and asylum system that protects asylum seekers, refugees, and other forced migrants and

offers them a haven from persecution.

5.The human rights and the human dignity of undocumented migrants should be respected.

Persons who enter a nation without proper authorization or who overstay their visas should be

treated with respect and dignity. They should not be detained in deplorable conditions for lengthy

periods of time, shackled by their feet and hands, or abused in any manner. They should be afforded

due process of the law and, if applicable, allowed to articulate a fear of return to their

home before a qualified adjudicator. They should not be blamed for the social ills of a nation.

http://www.coc.org/election2008/files/catholicBishops.pdf

This well-thought, eloquent logic for immigration reform is the sort of pressure which the Church must continue to exert on the State. Politics and bureaucracy does not necessarily have a moral conscience; it is the Church’s duty to be that conscience, that moral reminder, to keep capitalism in check and legislation within moral law. The Catholic Church, along with its Protestant brothers, would echo King in saying, “…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…” More specifically, a system which produces “illegal” people needs major re-imagining, and the Church must be the ones calling out for the individual in the face of the corporate. The Gospel of Jesus must continue to be good news to all, whatever their mother-tongue or father-land.