Celebrating unity in diversity at the Fiesta del Sol
Several months ago, the Claretian Missionaries of the United States Province (the publishers of U.S. Catholic) were invited to share “Communion and Mission” during Fiesta del Sol. With the blessing of His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, the Claretians and its Hispanic Ministry Resource Center, accepted the invitation to mission with an outdoor Mass dedicated to immigrants and DREAMers. The following is adapted from the homily given during the Mass on August 3 by Claretian Father Rosendo Urrabazo:
The readings today invite us to reflect on our relationship with God and with one another.
In today’s reading the Prophet Isaiah (55:1-3) invites all of us who are thirsty to come to the water; he invites those with no money to come and eat, he calls on us to listen to his message that we might have life. He bids us enter into relationship with God through the everlasting covenant. There is in fact a thirst within us, a thirst for justice; there is a hunger within us, a hunger to live our lives in peace and in good relationship with God and with one another.
The Psalm (145) tells us that we are fed by the hand of the Lord, that he is gracious and merciful, good to all and compassionate. We look to him with hope and we find our food, our sustenance in him. We live because of him and he lives in us, especially those who call upon him in truth. We present our needs before the Lord and trust that he will answer our prayers. God also uses us to answer the prayers of others. We are his angels, his messengers, and the incorporation of his body.
Let us not be separated from that love, from that body of Christ. St. Paul tells us in the second reading (Rom. 8:35-39) not to be afraid of death nor life, of neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future. The love of God comes to us in Christ Jesus. God send his love incarnate in Jesus and Jesus send his love incarnate in us.
It is no wonder then that in today’s gospel (Matt. 14: 13-21) when Jesus sees the crowd hungry, he simply cannot send them away. He must find a way to feed them. What was the miracle? Was it that Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread and fish? I think there is another way of looking at this. When Jesus and his disciples began to share the little bit of food they had, others saw what they were doing and started doing the same. Maybe this was the miracle, that when people shared what they had there was more than enough to go around.
This celebration of Hispanic heritage, culture and cuisine is successful because many people share the little bit they have. We are a country that knows how to share, a country with a history of being generous to those in need both here at home and around the world. We seem to be at our best during moments of crisis.
Our Judeo-Christian roots have laid a foundation of right behavior toward one another. When we are true to our roots, our society does well and even thrives. When we go astray then the worst side of human behavior begins to emerge. Being American is about working together for the common good. We bring the richness of our cultures and traditions to the common table of our country and make it stronger through our diversity of origin and unity of purpose.
Celebrating our unity in diversity means being faithful to who we are and not forgetting where we come from. Most of us are immigrants ourselves, or we are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. We don’t have to look too far into our family tree to find stories about how our own family members came to this country and endured many struggles so that we might be here today.
Let us never forget our own stories and let us not forget that there are many in our country who are struggling to become citizens of this great land. It is not wrong for them to want a better life. It is their inalienable right to pursue happiness and enjoy the protection of our laws.
We remember in a special way during our Mass today the many young people who were brought here as children and have grown up in our schools, pledged allegiance to our flag, and who want to continue their education and take their place among the citizens of this great land. We call them Dreamers, for they have been raised to believe in the American Dream. They are citizens in their hearts and minds. Now we ask Congress to make them citizens under the law. Give them a path to citizenship, let them continue their education, let them live in peace in our country, which is also their country. We must allow them and encourage them to pursue their dreams. How we welcome them says something about who we are as a people. How we welcome them gives credibility to the words written under the statue of liberty, Give to me your tired and lonely, your huddled masses.
In recent days, we have also been challenged by the large number of Central American children who are fleeing the violence and hardship of their home countries. We are all in shock at the sight of so many children being exposed to so many dangers as they trek across thousands of miles to reach our borders.
My heart goes out to these children and to their parents. How desperate must their parents be to allow them to make this journey, even paying others to bring them to America? How desperate must their situation be to risk the lives of their children to so hazardous a journey? This is wrong. Families must stay together and help each other. Yet these children deserve a right to live, to grow up and be safe.
We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at our own border. We are witnessing thousands of refugee children in military camps and a variety of holding centers across the Southwest that need our help. We must reach out to them and let them know that they are not alone.
We must make sure that they are treated humanely and in accord with the laws of our country. But more importantly we must reach out to them as members of our common human family. How we respond to this crisis speaks volumes about who we are as Americans and the values we proclaim to live and live to proclaim.
Certainly, our country needs comprehensive immigration reform and that is part of the bigger picture. Our Congress needs to continue this debate for the common good of our country. But in front of us are the Dreamers who want to go to college and need our help right now. In front of us are these thousands of children who need our attention right now. This is too big for any one agency, public or private. Any realistic response must be a collaboration of our whole society, of people of good will across the country.
Our scriptures call on all those who are thirsty and hungry to come forward and taste the goodness of the Lord. We are thirsty for justice and hungry for compassion. We are the recipients of the gospel message: “There is no need for them to disperse, Give them something to eat yourselves.” And the real miracle is that when we share what we have, we can truly say that “All those present ate their fill.” The good news of this Fiesta del Sol celebration is that there are people who care and want to participate in that great American tradition of working for the common good, of finding solutions for difficult situations, of passing on the torch of freedom lit by our founding fathers and mothers from one generation to the next.
Here are more photographs from the event:
Image: Photos by @enReda-T