Stepping Beyond – Our borders and welcoming the stranger
Notice what is on your mind . . . let each thought that comes gently drop away . . . notice how you are feeling at this moment . . . can you put a name on a feeling? . . . can you locate where in your body you are feeling this? . . . notice how you are in your body today . . . relaxed or tense . . . cold or warm . . . tired or wide awake . . . how is your body? . . . however you are, let God look at you with love and welcome you to this time together . . .
Prepare yourself now to hear our reading from the Gospel of Matthew...
Matthew 2:13-15 NRSV
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,
and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
On Christmas Day we celebrate Jesus who was born away from his town, among people he did not know; there was not even a place for him at the inn. As we reflect on the reading from St Matthew we hear that shortly after his birth, Jesus had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph and lived his childhood years in a foreign country, speaking a language that was not his own, among people who professed a different religion.
In this week’s reflection, as we consider the flight of the Holy Family, we are being invited to step beyond our borders and to welcome the stranger. As we continue to reflect on the message of Fratelli Tutti we are reminded that we live in a world where the issue of migration is presented as a basic issue in politics. Many leaders profess that the solution to migration lies simply in keeping migrants out of their country by any means. It is no surprise that the problem only gets bigger, as the world becomes colder and ready to accept measures that it would find totally unacceptable in other areas.
In one of his most famous phrases, the Pope called this ‘the globalisation of indifference’. It is no wonder the issue of migration and the welcome of refugees has a prominent place in Fratelli Tutti’s invitation to step beyond. During this season of Advent when we see the many images of migrants and hear the media reports of their plight, do we ever consider the similarities of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as the angel told Joseph to “get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt?
In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis tells us that we should strive to treat migrants and refugees with love and compassion. ‘Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarised by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.’ (FT129). He continues ‘no one will ever openly deny that [migrants and refugees] are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable.’ (FT39). In these weeks of Advent we pray - Come Lord Jesus, open our hearts that we may not be indifferent to the needs of our brothers and sisters, but with much love, strive to step beyond our comfort zones to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them.
Talk to God
What has struck you during your reflection time today? Perhaps a particular image of refugees has stayed in your mind. Or perhaps you can picture the scene of the Holy family in your imagination…what they were wearing…the way they moved and travelled…their gestures and emotions. Reflect on these things with God now.
What stirs in you when you think about stepping beyond to help the stranger? This might be something you are unfamiliar with, or something you are seeking to do at the moment… Talk to God about where you are in this.
In these closing moments, you might like to thank God for all the strangers who have entered your life. Ask God to reveal someone HE might like you to reach out to today...
An Ecumenical Christian Prayer
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.
Given in Assisi, at the tomb of Saint Francis, on 3 October, Vigil of the Feast of the Saint, in the year 2020.
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