St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Refugees Crisis and the Culture of Life                   -Homily September 27, 2015

 

 

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” A young woman, Hillary, from Cobourg Alliance Church, member of the “Better together” local group for sponsoring a refugee family, gave us a presentation last week at our Ministerial Association meeting. She began by telling what moved her to engage in this ministry together with her husband, Nathan: in the news, she saw a mother trying to nurse her child in the middle of the ruins and hardships of war… at the same time that she herself, in front of the TV, was nursing her second child. “She is a mother like me, and she has nothing.” She doesn’t even know if she will make it to the next day.

 

 

We need to help. At the end of Mass we will share information about the way we as a diocese will support the refugees. I have no doubt that Cobourg will be very generous, as usual. Let me now make a few remarks that connect with the Gospel and may give us some insight in this matter of the refugees.

 

 

There are some fears connected with bringing foreign people into our country. Are we not sowing the seed of new problems in our own cities? Is there not the danger that our support will be used for people with other agendas? When someone asks for help, particularly in a situation like that, we cannot risk letting people die because “we don’t know.” To help people is always a risk. Our job now is to help, not to judge. We are not making plans for the long term, but responding to an emergency.

 

 

At the same time, all care should be taken that people settling in our country are integrated. Our culture will not be imposed on them, but they have to be open to the culture that welcomes them. We have to foster not only a welcoming attitude in ourselves, but also a welcoming attitude towards us of those who will come. Here the Gospel may be enlightening. Jesus does not want a relationship of control among his disciples: it is about serving one another. The first, the leader, is the one who gives more to the others. To rule is to be concerned about the others’ welfare, not about my own position. As the apostle James teaches us in the Second Reading, the cause of conflicts is selfish ambition: when I have my own agenda and I do not care about the others’ interests and concerns; when I use or discard other people because they do not serve my purposes. Nobody has the right to use or get rid of people for their own purposes. This goes both ways: for those who help, and those who are helped. But when you help, you risk, you must risk, you must be the first, no matter what.

 

 

The problem of the refugees is at least partially a consequence of religious intolerance, of people who discard people because they do not serve their own purposes. This needs to stop, and people who do this need to be stopped. Our part here is to build up a culture in which the dignity of everyone is respected, a culture in which nobody is treated as a slave or a thing, but everybody is welcomed as a person. Here we are not talking only about refugees, but about a culture of life. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Babies are refugees in their mother’s womb, how do we treat them? For what reasons? Elderly people are refugees in the hospitals, are they loved or are they disposed of according to economic interests? Life is not worth a penny for fundamentalists in war countries, but are we not falling in the same temptation in our own developed countries?

 

 

People are more important than things. People, all people, are to be welcomed and loved. Our country does not need more money to be happy, but more people. When you plan your family according to your resources, you are beginning the wrong way. Perhaps I can explain myself: people need resources to live. But resources are produced by people. Fewer people will produce fewer resources. And when you will not produce more resources in your old age, the fewer people left will get rid of you. It is happening now, and it will only get worse if we don’t try something different. I think we should have a broader vision, we should look at the future generations, and have more children. A big family is a big blessing, and many of you, thank God, know it by experience. Share that experience with the younger generations.

 

 

I think I’ve mixed many things today, but the point is this: let us welcome Jesus in all those who are weak. They are fathers and mothers as we are, they could be our children. The only way to show Jesus that we truly love him is to do something for them. Let us do what we can. One day we will see the face of Jesus, and  in his smile and in his loving eyes, we will realize that whatever we did for the least of his brothers and sisters, we did for him (cf. Matthew 25:40). Let us make Jesus smile, let us be ourselves the smile of Jesus for our brothers and sisters who suffer.  –Fr. Andrew