Saturday, March 04, 2017

Restorer of Ruined Homesteads

Carravagio, Vocazione di San Matteo

Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; "Repairer of the breach," they shall call you, "Restorer of ruined homesteads." Isaiah 58:11-12

The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." Luke 5:30-32

Like the disciples of Emmaus, believers, supported by the living presence of the risen Christ, become in turn the traveling companions of their brothers and sisters in trouble, offering them the word which rekindles hope in their hearts. With them, they break the bread of friendship, brotherhood, and mutual help. This is how to build the civilization of love. This is how to proclaim the hoped-for coming of the new heavens and the new earth to which we are heading.

(From the homily on June 2, 2000, the Jubilee Day for Migrants and Refugees, when Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square for over 50,000 migrants, refugees, people on the move, and their chaplains from all over the world.)

Renew.  Rebuild.  Repair.  Restore. 

Let’s for a minute, approach Lent (and all spirituality) the same way that marketers approach their target audiences.  To appeal to the public, they must answer the questions, “SWWCWIIFM?”  Or, in long form: “So what?  Who cares?  What’s in it for me?”

The Prophet Isaiah sets the tone for a Lenten season based upon authentic fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  If we do what is asked by the Lord in our covenant, we will be renewed, rebuilt, repaired and restored in a very Psalm 23 pastoral mood.

Jesus, too, focused on the old, the broken and the sinful.  If we move from marketing to math, the equation becomes:

Repentance = Renewal + Rebuilding + Repairing+ Restoring

It looks like the benefits are all on our repentance side of the equation. We just need to take the first step like Levi/Matthew.

We continue to be called to be a “restorer of ruined homesteads.”  After college, I spent some time as a full-time volunteer helping Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charlotte resettle the generation of “boat people” who were fleeing the Communist regimes in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War ended.  People from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam risked life and limb in rickety boats.  When they made it to Malaysia or Hong Kong, they lived in refugee camps until they were accepted by a sponsoring country or organization to begin a new life in a new land. 

The ‘Boat People of Vietnam’ seemed to encapsulate all the suffering Vietnam had suffered from 1965 to 1975. Despite the end of the Vietnam War, the tragedy for the people of Vietnam continued into 1978-79. The term ‘Boat People’ not only applies to the refugees who fled Vietnam but also to the people of Cambodia and Laos who did the same.[i]

The United States accepted 823,000 refugees; Britain, France, Australia and Canada hundreds of thousands more. Of those settled in the U.S., Catholic Churches did their share and the Diocese where I lived at the time stepped up.  We are a church called to be “restorer of ruined homesteads” be they for people from Vietnam, Syria, Russia, Poland, Ireland or Italy. 

The Catholic Church in the United States is an immigrant Church with a long history of embracing diverse newcomers and providing assistance and pastoral care to immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move.  Our Church has responded to Christ’s call for us to “welcome the stranger among us,” for, in this encounter with the immigrant, the migrant, and the refugee in our midst, we encounter Christ.[ii]

The USCCB Christianity emphasizes the message of welcoming the stranger. Nowhere in Christian teaching is the message of kindness to strangers qualified by their method of arrival.  Take time to review the Catholic Social Teaching and the document Welcoming The Stranger Among Us: Unity In Diversity[iii].  How can you and your parish help remember our heritage and overcome our fears?

The Gospel calls us to solidarity with those who are suffering, vulnerable, and in need. In this spirit, we recall the words of Pope Francis: “How often in the Bible the Lord asks us to welcome migrants and foreigners, reminding us that we too are foreigners!”

[iii] The pastoral statement Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity was developed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. It was approved by the full body of bishops at their November 2000 general meeting as a statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and is authorized for publication by Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary, NCCB/USCC.

No comments: