Throughout salvation history, or the history of God’s people towards Him, fleeing homelands and journeying towards new ones are common themes. The people of God are regularly immigrants and refugees. They flee due to violence, floods, exile, and due to the Lord inviting them somewhere else. We even find the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod shortly after Jesus is born. In Matthew 25, the Lord invites us to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35-40). Responding to immigrants and refugees is one way to live out Christ’s invitation to welcome the stranger.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites make the journey out of Egypt, through the desert, and into the Promised Land. In this journey, they flee from Pharaoh and the slavery they experienced in Egypt to worship God freely in the land He was preparing for them. The journey is extremely long and difficult. Throughout it, many of the sojourners seek to return to the comfort they knew before. The people of God were refugees. They fled their home in hopes of a new and provident future.
Today, many people flee or choose to leave their country in hopes of a better life, as well. These people are refugees or immigrants. The difference between these two words is choice. A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their home due to war, violence, or persecution. They often have to leave without warning. A migrant is someone who chooses to move, not because of a direct threat or persecution, but mainly to improve their life.
In Matthew 25, when our Lord invites us to welcome the stranger, He does not specify which stranger to welcome. We are invited to welcome all –as God’s children and our neighbors here on earth. Welcoming the stranger can take a variety of forms. One could pray for our neighbors throughout the world, volunteer with Catholic Charities to help resettle and welcome the stranger, or follow in the steps of a saint who welcomed the stranger –such as St. Frances Cabrini.
In Genesis 4, Cain answers God, “…[A]m I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Our lives should be a resounding opposition to this response. We are our brothers’ keepers. Our history, as part of salvation history, is filled with stories of fleeing homes and beginning again. Let our hearts be opened to those in need, and respond by welcoming the stranger.
As your people journeyed through the desert to the Promised Land,
You guided them and provided for their needs.
Today, be with those who flee or leave their countries.
We ask you to provide for them –leading them to safety and abundance.
Provident Father, we trust in you.
Catholic Charities helps refugees and immigrants every day. This month, get involved. There are a variety of ways you can help. Visit our web page about our refugee program to get plugged in.