By Fr Stephan Alexander
General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR
Imagine this: it’s 4.30 p.m. on Friday, November 10, 2023. I’ve just returned to the presbytery and I’m tired. However, I am also excited to attend the Seminary fundraising dinner that evening.
The secretary welcomed me with a message, “Ms Gloria needs your help with a migrant family”. I think to myself, that could wait until Monday, but within minutes I reconsider and call.
I was able to speak with Jorge who informed me of his family’s situation. He’s unemployed, they have nothing to eat, and the children have the flu. I wanted to help but convinced myself that I shouldn’t visit that afternoon. I arranged to have some items delivered to Jorge the next day.
Fast forward to two weeks later when I was finally able to meet Jorge and his family. Their living conditions greatly concerned me. Perhaps, “their home” is why the children were still ill.
I arranged for a doctor’s visit, and they were eventually hospitalised. I was disappointed in myself for not visiting earlier yet Jorge and his family were happy that I came and that I cared enough to help.
The encounter with Jorge and his family was special. It allowed me to connect with their humanity in a way that has transformed me from being a mere bystander – willing to give to charity occasionally – to a participant in their story.
Jorge and his family have also become participants in my story. They have visited my parish and are now friends who are teaching me more about God’s love for humanity than any theology course could.
Jorge’s story, like the story of most migrants, is similar to the story that we will reflect on during the Christmas season. Here’s the scene: a poor family is forced to flee oppression in their homeland to survive. They arrive in foreign territory where they are alienated and forced to live in deplorable, inhumane conditions.
They are poor, homeless, refugees. Yet joy radiates from them. This joy tremendously impacts the lives of strangers who visit them and take the time to encounter their humanity.
Isn’t that the Christmas story? A social justice story of refugees named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? The story of a God who chose to become a victim of the unjust reality of the world He entered that He might humanise it – through His incarnation – and save us through the encounter with Him by encountering each other?
This Christmas story isn’t the one we are familiar with. One with majestic nativity scenes, beautifully decorated trees, well put-away houses, ham, sorrel, and the like. Yet, it’s the truth about who and what we are invited to celebrate.
A God who entered the messy situation of an unmarried couple who lived in an obscure town oppressed by the political regime as well as the opinions of persons who would have harshly judged them if they knew, what we know: Mary was carrying the child of someone other than her husband to be.
If that wasn’t enough, they were forced to seek asylum in a place they would never have ventured to on their own. Merry Christmas!
What does this say to us about our God? What does it say about the way He loves and how He invites us to love? Does the way Jesus choose to enter the world help us to understand that God loves and chooses people like Jorge and his family?
That the Lord can use anyone including outcasts, refugees, poor people, and those we reject for being immoral, to bring about His plan? Does God’s demonstration of this unimaginable form of self-giving inspire us to love those we encounter by entering into the difficulties that they face daily and journeying with them?
If not, perhaps it should because the Christmas story is all about respecting, honouring, and prioritising the dignity of all human beings, seeking the common good of all, solidarity with others, allowing for participation in the social, cultural, economic, and political life of society and much more.
It also importantly demonstrates the necessity of God’s presence in our world and our lives. Without God, Jorge and his family would not have survived, nor could we be moved to encounter the humanity within them.
If we are not fuelled by God’s love, we’ll be unable to love others as God does.
This Christmas may we experience and share the love of the migrants Jesus, Mary, and Joseph with each person we encounter.
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Catholic Commission for Social Justice
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