Homily – January 15, 2017

Throughout the world the church is observing the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. We are called to be aware of and responsive to the reality of the millions of our brothers and sister who are suffering the reality of being refugees and immigrants. We see time and again the blight of men, women and children who are forced to flee their homelands because of civil strife and religious persecution. We see desperate people, paying a small fortune to get passage on unsafe boats to find safe harbour in Greece or Italy. Thousand die as boats sink and human traffickers make a fortune from the desperation of these people. We see pictures of the refugee camps in Turkey, Syria, Jorden, Sudan and other countries where people seek safety. The UN’s refugee organization claims there are millions upon millions of refugees in camps around the world.

Imagine what it must be like to know you are really not wanted, that you are a burden and a threat to those upon whom you depend for a daily hand out. Imagine the suffering of people in camps in the Baltic region as they face the harsh winter conditions of those regions. In other camps people suffer under blazing sunshine and drought conditions. Seeing these heartrending scenes night after night on the news we can become numb if not indifferent to their sufferings. Pope Francis refers to ‘The universal indifference’ that plagues the human family as we witness ancient cities reduces to rubble, the sorry plight of refugees, blatant social injustices in the exploitation of working men, women and children and the crisis of climate change. The issues are endless and destroy the lives of our brothers and sisters. We may not be able to do much about these situations nor offer much solace to these good people but Pope Francis wants us to avoid the sin of indifference and be aware of them and grieve that good people, desperate people suffer in such horrible conditions.

Today’s gospel tells us of Jesus being baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the Jordon River. John bore witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When we say or sing the Lamb of God at Mass and as we prepare to receive Holy Communion we say Jesus takes away the sins of the world.

As one commentator wrote, ‘we all sin, and we sin in different ways and at different times but all our sins are of a piece: they are different manifestations of our sinfulness.

The Church has recently developed concept of social sin is an attempt to articulate the sinfulness of humankind. It isn’t just that we do wrong things: the fact is that we are basically “off center.” It is our “original” sin that matters most, our fundamental option for ourselves and our wants over and above God and others.

But sin is not our final reality. Through the passion and death of Jesus on the cross and Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, grace and love are the final realities. By his wounds we are healed. By his grace we can turn away from sin and believe and live the good news.

Mindful of the sufferings of so many good men, women and children who suffer the reality of being unwanted immigrants and refugees, you good, good people of St. Gabriel’s can take comfort in the fact that from years ago you answered the appeal of the Vietnamese boat people and right up to the present blight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees you have opened your hearts and homes to others. We’ve been blessed with a capable and generous refugee committee. This you should know, the words of Jesus are true;’ whatever you do to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me.’