Biblical Justice

Franciscans are called to live the Gospel going from “Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.” In the Old Testament justice meant fidelity to the bonds of relationship. In the Old Testament the evidence of your love of God and neighbor was how you treated the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner in your midst. The Jews had been foreigners in Egypt and this was key to their right relationship with God. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus describes our relationship to our neighbor and gives us a fabulous story about the Samaritan man who was neighbor to a man beaten and left for dead along the road. In the Gospel of Matthew in the twenty-fifth chapter Jesus gives his only description of the final judgement. It too is about taking care of the most vulnerable among us.

Today in our country there is a situation involving immigration. There are no easy answers. It’s a nuanced argument that is once again being used by clever politicians to divide us. The United States Catholic bishops have taken a position that closely aligns itself with the church’s teachings which of course are drawn from the Gospel. Pundits are spinning their stories as I suppose they have done all through history. The real issue boils down to economics. In our country the emphasis in statehouses and in our national capitol is one of money. People have no real value according to the government except as they might provide tax revenue. In the days after September 11th I was shocked at how soon the dialogue switched from the victims of this tragedy to the impact this was having on our financial markets. The immigration issue is being framed the same way. We’re not concerned with the immigrants unless they can help our economy. With the exception of Native Americans the rest of us came here as immigrants. My ancestors came here from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. My great-grandmother never became a citizen. Today we’d call her an illegal alien. Grandma Owens had seven children each of whom had children. All of them became American citizens. America used to be beautiful and used to be a beacon of democracy. The image of the Statue of Liberty and the famous quote emblazoned at the base of the statue by the child of Jewish immigrants.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Some in our country want to post the Ten Commandments in public places. Commandments written in stone have little effect unless they are written in the hearts of the people. ““When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizenamong you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
-Leviticus 19:33-34. Peace.