Ordinary Time 15, Year B
- Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue (Lk. 16:24)
Six years ago, I met two Mexican nationals at the Christian Help Center in Vallejo, California . One was Amílcar and the other was Hilario. I said then in my reflection on the same readings as this coming Sunday’s that the two, not unlike the Judean prophet Amos who was looked upon or looked down upon, were considered foreigners in the U.S.A. and were not welcome in not a few places here.
Six years have passed and there are in the United States more Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants like Amílcar and Hilario. And it appears that the presence of these immigrants is resented by a greater number of U.S. citizens and in many more places. It looks like things have changed little insofar as undocumented immigrants are concerned. It is possible the Neighborhood Ranch Watch that Demetria Martínez reported on then for the National Catholic Reporter might no longer exist, but there is today “The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.” And there, too, are the separately approved Senate and U.S. House of Representatives bills. National guards are also now being sent to the southern border to help border patrol. There is every indication still that undocumented immigrants are not at all welcome to the U.S.A., even though they are still picked up at various bus stops by contractors who give them back-breaking work for substandard pay.
And a lot of it has to do with politics, I feel. Political propagandists, I am afraid, just keep repeating the old lies and half-truths often enough that unsuspecting and uninformed citizens soon take them as unassailable truths. Votes need to be won. It must be insisted upon, then, that the influx of undocumented immigrants is a threat to homeland security and puts a risk the continued existence of the U.S. culture or way of life as well as the predominance of English as the language of the U.S. One has to find and point to an enemy to rally one’s constituents. But I wonder how many incarcerated terrorists are there who had come to the U.S. through the southern border. And are there really cities and localities in the U.S. where English is in danger of disappearing because of the presence of many Spanish-speakers?
In any case, the undocumented immigrants continue, in my view, to be the kind of prophet who painfully reminds the self-complacent and the comfortable about the fundamental precariousness and insecurity of human existence, and points an accusing finger at those who are responsible for social inequities and unjust social structures and situations. And they keep coming not unlike the missionaries with instructions to travel light and to live in stark simplicity. They are mobile and not terribly burdened by non-essential things that unfortunately tend to be “canonized” when these are not really essential or integral elements of the gospel’s concern (cf. a version of Father Bob Maloney’s “On Being a Missionary Today” at ). The undocumented immigrants keep coming and they remind us also to count our blessings as Paul did, even while in captivity in Caesarea or in Rome, and thank God for blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. This the Apostle did hundred of years ago. And it can be done today still, which offsets somewhat what has not changed in six or more years.