January 8, 2012
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These words lie at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. After being greeted there, immigrants from northern, southern, and eastern European nations were processed at Ellis Island and then went on to their new homes throughout the United States. Today, immigrants come from throughout the world – from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Central & South America. So, not everyone sees the Statue of Liberty upon arriving at our shores.
The closing of our first reading from Isaiah is filled with rich images.
“You shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
The wealth of nations shall be brought to you.”
Barbara Reid in her book, Abiding Word, says “all people, from near and far, come to the holy city bearing their priceless gifts: riches from the sea, caravans of camels bulging with treasures, gold, frankincense, and wealth beyond measure”.
Everyone, today, brings what they have – their humanity, their rich culture, their values, and their religious traditions. This mix provides all of us with an opportunity to learn from one another’s lived-experience and to be enriched with the various gifts that they bring from their part of the world.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s we often heard that the United States was a “melting pot” because of its mixture of people. The difficulty with that image is that once something is melted it ceases to be what it was originally. The image that speaks to me today is that of a symphony. The violin, the clarinet, the trumpet, the drum, and all of the other instruments maintain their original sound. Yet, while playing together, beautiful harmonies are created that would not be present had the instruments not come together.
We hear further in the Letter to the Ephesians that we are “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. For us that means welcoming our brothers and sisters from throughout the world into this place that we call “home”. It means “working with”; it means “collaborating with…”
Barbara Reid speaks again: The exotic visitors from the East, who come with their priceless gifts for the newborn Christ, signal the welcome of all people’s in God’s embrace” [end quote]. As I was reflecting upon the gospel text earlier, I was challenged by the words: “They prostrated themselves and did him homage”. Questions arise: Where do I/where do we prostrate ourselves today? Where do I/where do we do homage today?
On December 14th, thirty-three (33) Hispanic/Latino bishops of the United States issued a letter to immigrants. I was touched not only by the compassion but also by the reality of the situation of many immigrants. The bishops say “We will not find a solution to our problems by sowing hatred. We will find the solution by sowing a sense of solidarity among all workers and co-workers – immigrants and citizens – who live together in the United States. Further, the bishops state that they “will also continue to advocate on behalf of global economic justice, so that our brothers and sisters can find employment opportunities in their countries of origin that offer a living wage, and allow them to live with dignity”. The letter ends with “We see Jesus the pilgrim in you migrants. The Word of God migrated from heaven to earth in order to become man and save humanity”.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany; today we celebrate all of us, for we are all migrants in some way. It may be from another country; it may be finding ourselves at another place in our lives; or it may be finding ourselves growing deeper in relationship with God and with one another.
May we always remember that Jesus, the Christ, the ultimate migrant, resides in and is present in all of us gathered here today and in our streets. May we reach out in loving relationship to all we meet…