In today’s Gospel (Luke 4:16-30) the Lord Jesus demolishes the expectations of those who (not without reason) called themselves God’s chosen people. Just as Elijah was sent not to a widow of Israel but to a Sidonian woman, and just as Elisha healed not an Israelite leper but Namaan the Syrian, so He too was coming to announce a gospel that would be for all people and not merely the Jews. The people of His hometown were so greatly offended by this message that they sought to kill Him.
The good news of salvation is not just for the Church, either. It is for all people everywhere. There have been times and places (maybe this is one of them? And is this one of those places?) where Catholics have sought to hide the light of the Gospel under a bushel basket. Ironically this same kind of problem exists in the secular world as well. We have come a long way from welcoming immigrants to this country, from opening our arms to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
I suppose that if I had my way I probably wouldn’t be writing about this subject again so soon after having just done so. But given the readings there really was no other option. Immigration is a particularly controversial topic today, and if we are going to think rightly about it we have to slow down and think rather than simply react. People don’t leave their native homes in order to go migrate someplace else for the purposes of wrecking that new home. They just don’t. That would be silly. No, they are coming here because they are seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. This is the same proposition that brought the first colonists here. It is the same proposition that brought millions of the downtrodden from Europe here in the last couple centuries. It is the same proposition that brought my ancestors here from Germany and the Netherlands and the British Isles and France (among other places). And now that we are here, now that I am here, shall we say — shall I say — “Immigrants go home”? Really? Seriously? True, our ancestors were here first (unless you include the natives…and we really should include them), but that is an accident of history. We have no better claim to this place than did our forefathers, and today’s immigrants have the same dreams as they. It is pretty shameful, in my opinion, for Americans of all people to be talking about stemming the tide of immigrants. I say that as one who not so long ago wanted to stem the tide by having the government force the flow into particular legal channels. But those channels are not keeping up. The immigrants are fleeing here for a reason, and we need to help them. No, that doesn’t inevitably mean opening the government’s larders to them, but it does mean giving them the same opportunities that our forefathers had. We have done it before, and we surely must do it again.