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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ignatian Volunteer Corps Reading: Chapter 9, “Welcoming the Stranger”

Reading: Chapter 9, “Welcoming the Stranger”
+ In the Name of the Father,…
The Lord be with you.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, bless our virtual gathering this morning as we solemnly celebrate this memorial of your final days with us. We come together with heavy hearts as we prepare for a surge of illnesses and death caused by a mysterious virus. We bear the sadness as we know many others will die I the near future, and we acknowledge our powerlessness in the midst of this tragedy. We come before you as we recognize our personal and collective sin of not welcoming the stranger and the foreigner and many who are different from us. We know that we have failed to bother to love persons who are closer to us in kinship than we allowed ourselves to believe. We ask you to enlighten our minds and our hearts so that we may be more fully rooted and grounded in your love, an inclusive love that extends far beyond what we can imagine. Help us to be better in how we care for one another, for our love of others reveals the depths of our love for you. We ask this in your name. Amen.

Let us know listen to words of Hebrew Scripture.

Deuteronomy 10:17-22

Psalm 137:1-5

By the rivers of Babylon there we sat weeping when we remembered Zion. On the poplars in its midst we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for the words of a song; Our tormentors, for joy: “Sing for us a song of Zion!” But how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget. May my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem beyond all my delights.

Isaiah 58: 6-8

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.


We find ourselves in unprecedented times. The surge of the coronavirus coincides with our living out Passion Week, and therefore we have an opportunity to align our emotions, thoughts, and fears with the suffering of Jesus as he goes to the cross. We note the injustice done to Jesus as, at the same time, we behold the injustices that we cause to our fellow human beings. The unruly mob, the betrayal, the denial, the abandonment, the confusion, that comes up during the Passion brings up the chaos in our lives, our inner turmoil and dysfunction, the ways we have hurt others because we acted out of unmet needs, the ways we have been hurt by others, and the ways we did not even try to care for a person we see as an adversary, an obstacle to our goals, a foreigner, a person who is other than us.

            The readings from the Hebrew Scripture remind us that this world is God’s, not our own. It is through God’s providence that we have been led out from places of oppression and unjust control, from our imprisonment, from the stranglehold of the world’s forces. Our ancestors were led out of physical and social bondage in Egypt as we have been led out of bondage of oppression caused by human actions. The Psalm reminds us of our ancestor’s capture and exile into Babylon where they experienced loss of ritual, meaning, culture, worship, and identity. Banished to a foreign land, they knew the anxiety of displacement in a realm in which they would never be accepted, never be respected, never to have their gifts cherished, never to have their inherent dignity welcomed. Isaiah reminds us that our life has to be one of service, that we must always remember where we came from, and that we cannot ever use our privilege over another person. We must always return to the fasting that God wants from us.

            This week in particular, and often when we pray, we are best served by letting the Lord examine our attitudes and motivations. How do we do this? We sit before Christ and we simply ask, “Where have I failed to bother to love today?” This is not that we tell Christ where we have been good or have been bad, it is that we allow Christ to tell us where he has noticed those times and places where our hearts have been hardened and we have been unwilling to let it soften. Christ can and will reveal to us many surprising moments when we say to ourselves, “I just didn’t realize that. I did not fully comprehend my actions.” It becomes a moment of awareness when we realize we are still motivated by a desire to reconcile and to learn how to love more fully. It becomes a moment when we recognize that we ought not to assume the role of judge because that sacred responsibility belongs to Jesus alone.

            From our readings and from our knowledge of Jesus, let us celebrate that he is an inclusive Messiah, a savior who has come for the Jew and the Gentile, the Arab and Africans, the Chinese and the Mexicans, the person in the lowest economic class and the wealthy, the influential and those harmed by policy makers, and through the mercy that is undeserved, he has come for you. Perhaps we will be able to see that our unity is important to Jesus, and in his kingdom, the only rank that matters is brother and sister. He who calls us in far more important than that difference that we used to separate us.

            It is appropriate for us to adopt a practice of deep listening, when we listen to the heartfelt stories of the person before us. We are our stories. If we cannot tell them, we do not exist. Therefore, we must listen as often as possible, and we tell ourselves repeatedly this statement, “Now is the time to listen only.” This is the time when we learn, this is the time when mercy enters into our heart, this is our time of metanoia and conversion, this is the time when Jesus speaks.

            What must our Christian fellowship look like: It is marked by a consideration of one to the other that seeks the benefit of others. This consideration has to build up the faith. Our fellowship savors the promises of God spoken by Sacred Scripture so that we find comfort in our sorrows and encouragement in our struggles. We are a people marked by fortitude as an attitude to the heart of life. It is a triumphant adequacy that can cope with life. We are forever marked by hope because we are realists, and as a person of faith, we have seen everything, experienced everything, and we do not despair because we believe in God, not in the human spirit, human achievement, or human goodness, but in the power of God. Our lives are marked by harmony, which means that we have the capacity to solve the problems of living together, and the result is a serene peace. Our lives are marked by praise. We are to enjoy life because we enjoy God, and we know God is working all things together for the good. We are marked by the example of Jesus who chose to serve others instead of desiring to please himself. His was a life of open hospitality who showed no partiality, but included everyone into his kingdom, especially the most vulnerable among us.

            I want to leave you with a question to ask Jesus:

1.    Today, will you reveal to me where I need to bother to hear another person’s story so that my consciousness may be expanded?  … that a perception or judgment that I hold may receive more insight?
2.    Today, will you reveal to me a situation in my life where I need to bother to love someone who is suffering? …where I need mercy shown to me?

Reflection Questions:
1.    What do you know about your family’s immigration story, voluntary or not? Do you see common ground between that history and the experience of today’s immigrants?
2.    On p. 168, Wallis mentions an immigration reform movement described as “Bibles, Badges and Business.” How do you perceive the role of corporations in the immigration debate? Should they be allies with people of faith? Why, or why not?
3.     In this chapter, Wallis discusses examples of conservative Christians whose attitudes toward immigrants have changed because of personal relationships with immigrants. Have you seen this happen? Has it happened to you?
4.    Have Catholic churches in your area received a large number of new immigrants? If so, in your experience, what contributions are these new immigrants bringing to the church? Have those newly arrived Catholics also brought challenges for the native-born members?
5.    What do you think is the source of the intense fear and hostility toward immigrants described in the last section of this chapter? Can you empathize in any way with the angry, fearful people who blocked those buses?
6.    Are any of the issues this chapter raises related to immigration, or attitudes toward immigrants, things that are coming up in your volunteer experience?

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