Love Thy Neighbor

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By Johanna Duncan

I do my best to keep up with the news. Perhaps it is my FOMO or a habit built out of constantly having to prepare for the political debates held over my family’s dinner table. Who knows(?). But there’s a particular topic that has both touched my heart and frustrated my understanding with its complexity -refugees and immigration. The media is quick to oversimplify the issue by reducing the whole crisis to a decision between two extremes: family separation or open borders. None of these are decisions worthy of a heart filled with Christ’s love. Yet the on-going tragedy demands an answer: how can I go on with my day when I look at a newspaper cover of a child lying lifeless on some Mediterranean shore? The middle schooler in me can’t help but ask, “What would Jesus do?”

Still, I find peace in knowing that the issue before us is a timeless one and God has not deprived us of guidance. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 states, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”

Christ is present in our personal heartaches, as well as in the world’s heartaches, and healing is found in His Word. And then, there’s Exodus. It follows Genesis, and I believe there’s something truly profound in the fact that escape from slavery and persecution directly follows creation and original sin. . Truly, the tale is as old as history itself.

In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reflected on the Holy Family’s own experience as refugees and strangers. “The Family of Nazareth reflects the image of God safeguarded in the heart of every human family, even if disfigured and weakened by emigration.” Even if one has never experienced the need (or desire) to leave their homeland, Benedict invites us, as in everything else, to participate in the life of the Holy Family by reflecting on their experience as persecuted and travelling missionaries. This allows us to see the political world through the lense of Mary and Joseph and to meditate on immigration as a timeless and universal human experience.

I doubt those who failed to provide lodging to the Holy Family went straight to hell or had extra time in purgatory for it. Perhaps they truly had no extra room or their responsibilities to those already inside the inn prevented them from accommodating the Holy Family. Those are just and moral considerations. Consider your particular circumstances as either Mary and Joseph seeking refuge or as the innkeepers who encountered them.

As more news come in, guard your hearts because Christ dwells in them. Make your heart a home for Him and every one made in His image and likeness. Consider your personal situation and the ways you can love in the midst of this conflict. Luke 3:11 reminds us, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise."  

The Knights of Columbus have been providing basic resources for refugees across the world, Abby Johnson recently drove to the southern border to distribute basic baby items for those newly arrived to the middle of the conflict (just like Jesus), and sometimes I translate for pregnant women seeking medical help. Your gift doesn’t have to be material: prayer, smiles, and authentic friendship are often more than enough. It’s always better to give than to receive.

Take the issue out of the screens and into your heart—at the end of the day, that’s what you are responsible for. Abide by principle and perhaps consider your own virtue of charity and justice towards your neighbors. Acknowledge their personal stories and consider that no migrant or refugee’s situation is the same as the other. That is part of what makes the conflict so difficult. There is no size fits all solution to the immigration crisis. Yet God is not asking us for one. He simply asks that you act justly and charitably towards everyone you encounter.