Unifying and Strengthening a Nation

Homily for March 4, 2018 (3rd Sunday of Lent)

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25


You may have seen it.  The sign in front of our church has a simple message:  WE STAND WITH THE DREAMERS / ESTAMOS CON LOS DREAMERS

Until the Supreme Court of the United States last week let stand a lower court injunction, millions of young adults brought to this country as children and without immigration documents—the Dreamers—faced a risk of deportation beginning March 5.  They are students, workers, soldiers and parents.  This is the only country that many have ever known.  Because of the actions of our President and the inactions of Congress, their future is still uncertain. 

That uncertainty is shared by millions of other undocumented immigrants who still “live in the shadows.” In hotels and restaurants, farms and factories, they do the jobs many native-born Americans avoid.  Most want nothing more from this country than the chance of a better life for their families. In a sense, all of them are Dreamers. They are our neighbors.  They are members of our parish. 

In our first reading today we heard the Ten Commandments.  They are the basic rules that God has given us to govern our relationships.  The first three commandments speak of our relationship with God, who alone is worthy of our worship and our deepest reverence.   The other seven speak of our relationships with other people—our parents, spouses and neighbors—and the fundamental respect we owe them as fellow children of God.  How well does our immigration system respect the human dignity and rights of the people who come to this country, with papers or without papers?

When Jesus drove the merchants and money changers from the temple area, he was not objecting to them or even their activity.  In a practical sense, their presence was necessary so that people could fulfill their religious duties.  But the temple needed to remain a temple.  Jesus would not allow the spirit of prayer and devotion to become smothered by the demands of the marketplace. 

Similarly, we cannot allow the real or perceived economic benefits to our nation be the sole or even the primary basis for determining who is able to immigrate.  People seeking asylum and refuge from persecution, war and grinding poverty cannot be forgotten or treated as burdens or threats. 

A healthy immigration system unifies and strengthens a nation. It brings the best out of that nation’s people.  A dysfunctional immigration system divides and weakens a nation.  It feeds into our fears, ignorance and prejudices.  Our immigration system is broken.  It is expensive, inefficient, irrational and unjust.  It will not be fixed by a wall or by building more detention centers. In many ways, this nation was built by dreamers.  It will not be made great—or great again—by crushing those dreams or those who have them. +