Homily – January 14, 2018

Imagine you are a Christian living in Syria or Iraq or Iran or Lebanon or Egypt or in any country that is caught up in civil or religious strife. Because you are in a minority you are subjected to suspicion and hostility. You can’t find work; you can’t feed your family. You live in an overcrowded, unhealthy refugee camp. You are trapped, wrapped around with the red tape of bureaucrats as you seek refuge in a new country.

Your paper work keeps getting lost. You are unaware of the fact that in the country you seek to enter there are many people who don’t want you. You are seen as a tax burden or a stealer of jobs. They want you to stay where you are.

You are an educated person, an engineer, a dentist, a doctor. You want to bring our skills to a new land. But you are made to feel like a beggar sitting on a street with your hand out grateful to any pittance thrown your way.

Around the world there are millions of migrant and refugee families who live in hopeless situations such as we’ve just imagined.

Today the Catholic Church around the world focuses it thoughts and prayers on these refugee and migrant people. These good and desperate people are our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis wrote a letter to us Catholics on the occasion of this day, it is titled, ‘Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless.’

Francis calls the nations of the world to be open and welcoming to the refugees and migrants who are desperate for a new beginning in a new land. In no way dismissing the challenge the nations of the world face in trying to be open to the millions of refugees and migrants Pope Francis exposes the hypocrisy of national leaders who for political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace. Such national leaders sow violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia among their people in the name of national security. We had example of such rhetoric this past week from south of the border.

Francis quotes Pope John Paul who wrote; if the dream of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees and migrants’ contributions to the countries that make them welcome are properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and the earth a common home. Throughout history many have believed in this dream, it must be ours too.’

Child migrants, the vulnerable and the voiceless.

We’ve ended our Christmas season and celebrations. But who was at the center of our celebrations. Wasn’t Jesus the reason for the season? I’m quoting from an article I read recently;

“The real Christ is forever seeking a home in a world within which there’s no room for him.

So who best fits that description today? I suggest the following: Millions of refugee children. The Christ-Child can be seen most clearly today in the countless refugee children who, with their families, are being driven from their homes by violence, war, starvation, ethnic cleansing, poverty, tribalism, racism, and religious persecution. They, and their families, best fit the picture of Joseph and Mary, searching for a room, outsiders, powerless, uninvited, no home, no one to take them in, on the periphery, strangers, labeled as “aliens.” But they are the present-day Holy Family and their children are the Christ-Child for us and our world.

Where is the crib of Bethlehem today? Where might we find the infant Christ to worship? In many places, but “preferentially” in refugee camps; in boats making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean; in migrants trekking endless miles in hunger, thirst, and dangerous conditions; in people waiting in endless lines to be processed in hope of being accepted somewhere, in persons arriving at various borders after a long journey only to be sent back; in mothers in detention centers, holding their young and hoping; and most especially, preferentially, in the faces of countless refugee children.

What can we do about all this? We have no power, no influence, but we can keep these children and their families in our prayers. Samuel says in our first reading, ‘speak Lord you servant is listening.” Does the Lord speak to us in and through these voiceless children? We know he does. Will we answer by our mindfulness and our prayers for these migrant children, the vulnerable and the voiceless?