The real story of Jesus' birth can't be tied with a pretty bow.
The account of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s gospel is a familiar story. It relates a miraculous conception announced by an angel; a young girl’s trusting assent to this divine message; a birth in a cozy stable (the rude smells overlooked by countless Christmas pageants and Las Posadas processions); a joyful announcement by an angelic chorus; and a touching scene of awestruck shepherds greeting a newborn child. Luke’s infancy narrative shapes our imagination of the Christmas story into a tale of glad tidings and hope-filled joy.
Those who welcome the stranger step into eternal life.
Anyone who imagines Jesus has no stake in the debate about our treatment of the stranger at our borders needs to attend more Bible study. One of his most beloved parables concerns a good Samaritan: unwelcome in Israelite territory because he wasn’t “one of them,” a descendent of despised transplants who didn’t belong. The Samaritan alone shows compassion for an injured Israelite who, if he’d been in full vigor, might well have cursed him. Jesus pronounces the Samaritan a true neighbor.
The United States must protect all those facing religious oppression, whatever their faith.
Asia Bibi, perhaps the world’s best-known victim of religious persecution, may finally have found the peace and security she deserves when she joined her family in Canada on May 7. Imprisoned under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law, Bibi, a Catholic, had been accused in 2009 of making derogatory remarks about Islam by coworkers displeased about sharing water with a Christian woman.
The city of El Paso united to support migrants in the midst of crisis.
Ranchera music bounced out of the novelty and discount clothing stores as the 25-year-old Jesuit in formation made his way through downtown El Paso, Texas to Annunciation House, a shelter for migrants and refugees. Aromas of menudo, tamales, chorizo, and huevos frying in the pan wafted through alleyways. Storefronts and billboards advertised in Spanish as often as in English. Not far away, an 18-foot metal fence stretched for miles between the border, with familiar white and green Border Patrol vehicles stationed intermittently on both sides.
U.S. intervention has laid the groundwork for decades of civil war in Latin America that is driving migrants north.
Watching a huddled mass escape Central America this fall inspired an urge among many to rush to the border with food and water, while others chose to politicize the spectacle with calumny and disdain. President Trump ginned up his base before the midterm elections by repeatedly describing the so-called migrant caravan as an “invasion.”
Like Mary and Joseph, Central American migrants need a safe place to stay in an unfamiliar city.
The Christmas story is one of forced travel, of uncertainty, of a search for a safe place to stay in an unfamiliar city.
For Joseph and Mary that safe place was a manger in Bethlehem after learning there was no room for them anywhere else. For many Central Americans that place is La 72, a shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico.
For one Mexican immigrant, crossing the border into the United States was both a physical journey and a spiritual one.
I was born in a household of 10 people: seven siblings, my parents, and me. Growing up in rural Mexico, my parents never went to school. A few years after their marriage, they moved to the city so they could give their children an education; by this they meant seeing their children graduate from ninth grade.
A few things to consider before opening your parish to immigrants and refugees.
Should your church consider becoming a place of sanctuary? Here are a few key steps that may help you decide.
Talk to the congregation
The people of Saint Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, Minnesota went through a five-month process of discussion and debate before dedicating their space as a sanctuary. “Our parish has a social justice bent, but some people thought this was too political at first,” says Jesuit Father Warren Sazama, pastor of Saint Thomas More.
When the U.S. government has a zero tolerance party on undocumented people, how can the church welcome the stranger?
In the spring of 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained and eventually deported Jorge Taborda’s wife and oldest son. The Tabordas had been living in the United States for over 19 years. When ICE came to the door, Jorge and his younger son—a U.S. citizen by birth—were not at home. Jorge was able to find refuge at the Holy Cross Retreat Center near Las Cruces, New Mexico. He has been living there since May 2017.
Catholic parishes are a place where immigrants can receive welcome and support without facing violence because of their accents or mispronounced words.
I have a terrible habit of laughing at the way my Hispanic relatives talk—classic Spanglish. They mistake and from y, the from el and la, and they don’t know what a quiet volume is. My own mother can’t even pronounce my Persian name right; she, my abuelita, my aunts, and my uncles all call me “Cheereena,” not Shireen.