My place in the sun, February 9: Welcome the Stranger

   On Sunday, Feb. 5, I celebrated a special Mass in Solidarity with Refugees and Exiles at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The prepared text of the homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.

Let me begin with a warm welcome to those from other lands who join us today. You, and so many others who live in our area and throughout our country, enrich all of us. Thank you for being with us today.

   We are salt and light. Our words and deeds should flavor our culture with the message of Jesus. Our words and deeds should reflect the light of Christ who came to dispel the darkness.

   In our first reading, Isaiah offers the chosen people words of encouragement. If they hasten to take his advice to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the oppressed their light will break forth like the dawn and their wounds will be healed. Isaiah connects the people’s actions on behalf of the oppressed and afflicted with Israel’s future well-being. Their glorious time begins when they care for those in need. “Light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58:10).

   Jesus enhances the connection between our actions and our eternal future in the last judgment scene in Matthew’s Gospel. Surely, you remember the scene. Jesus invites some to take their place in the kingdom because they fed the hungry, gave a drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and visited the imprisoned. Somewhat surprised at their reward Jesus tells them that when they cared for their brothers and sisters they were in fact caring for Him. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine you did it for me” (Mt 25:35-40). Seeing the face of Christ in others and acting on their behalf is the pathway to eternal life.

   In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis noted, “Migration today is not a phenomenon limited to some areas of the planet. It affects all continents and is growing into a tragic situation of global proportions. Not only does this concern those looking for dignified work or better living conditions, but also men and women, the elderly and children, who are forced to leave their homes in the hope of finding safety, peace and security” (January 15, 2017).