In August of last year, my family relocated to Louisville for my full-time work as the Executive Director of JustFaith Ministries. We decided to rent a home in Louisville to give us time to “get to know the city,” before buying a home. We found a great house in a friendly neighborhood and signed a one-year lease.
Recently, we received notice that our lease would not be renewed, since the owner decided to sell the home. This was difficult news for my family as we weren’t prepared to move with only 45 days notice. It meant yet another transition that would require unforeseen financial expenses and flexibility with our work schedules to look for a new place quickly.
While my family is in a position to make the move fairly easily with not much more than a little grumbling, I can’t help but think about all the individuals who would be devastated by this notice. I thought of all those who would not have the time or flexibility of leaving work early/coming in late while looking for new housing, and would definitely not have the financial resources for upfront deposits, movers, and logistics to secure a new home.
However, the most painful part of this process for us has been: all communications related to the termination of our lease have come via email or text. There has not been a human voice behind the conversation of asking us to leave our home. This seems to be a trend. It is often far too easy to send emails and texts from behind a screen- eliminating the human factor- only to dismiss that real people are being affected by our decisions.
Unfortunately, this micro issue affecting my life is at the heart of most macro issues in our world today. At this time, we have a humanitarian crisis at our borders. There are people entering our country who are risking their lives and the lives of their family members to flee poverty, violence, war and oppression of every kind. However, most of us in the U.S. can simply sit behind a TV screen and make all kinds of judgements or assessments about whether someone has a right to be in our country – all without ever having to come in contact with an immigrant; without ever having to hear their stories. There are human beings being affected by our politics – innocent children being treated as subhuman – because we have the power to collectively influence political decisions that directly affect their lives and their livelihoods from a safe distance.
In this weekend’s Gospel reading from Luke we find Jesus empowering seventy disciples to take on his ministry to the poor, sick and oppressed. Jesus tells the seventy to eat and drink and bless the places that welcome them. However, he has a stern warning for places that do not welcome the seventy he has commissioned: “But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near… Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
We, in the U.S., are at a critical time in history where we can either decide to be a welcoming place for all God’s people, or we can be the place who – in the words of Mother Teresa – rejects “Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”
In the words of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in a Prayer for Migrants and Refugees, “Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,
- To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
- To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;
- To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;
- To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;
- To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.
May we in the U.S. not be the reason someone else has to dust off their feet in protest because we did not welcome those in need in our midst.
In prayer and hope,