I've been following the news on what's happening at our southern borders.
Tons of people pouring into the country, many of them children, overwhelming our porous border security and the communities that are now charged with caring for them all. I find myself in a struggle of conscience, on the one hand abhorring the fact that they're coming into the country illegally while on the other hand understanding my obligation to care, as Christ commands, for the least of these.
This morning at Mass, Father Mike quoted these familiar words of Emma Lazarus' sonnet "The New Colossus":
"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!"
Students of history will know that these words and the totality of the Lazarus' poem are emblazoned on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the gateway for the immigrant to the freedom offered by America.
Father Mike reminded us of the similarity of those words and, in part, the words found in today's gospel:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
It's interesting that this weekend, particularly when Americans are celebrating freedom and when the focus is on those crossing the border in hope, arguably, of seeking the very freedoms Americans are celebrating, the gospel speaks of taking on Christ's yoke. It's the Christian paradox so hard to even comprehend, much more to embrace. Not many of us are able to equate freedom with taking on a yoke.
Into that struggle steps Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who once wrote prophetically:
“Jesus Christ is the lodestar of human freedom. Without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated, and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself”
We can argue till the cows come home about the problems facing our southern borders and likely will but I'm of the mindset that sees this quest for freedom, however flawed the manifestation might be, as the driving force of those who are crossing the border. Oh sure, there are exceptions. There are criminal elements who have other purposes. There are those seeking something less pure, no doubt but in the end, for every one of them and for every one of us, it is that seeking of true freedom, of God's rest described in the Gospel, that is humanity's goal.
So, as I enjoy the freedom I've found in Christ, as I do that which this freedom allows me to do on this commemorative weekend, as I recognize and come to grips with this odd notion that becoming a slave to Christ is the only real way to God's rest, I am obligated to see "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" in a different, yet historical, light, an obligation I believe I must extend to those making the news at our borders.
I think Emma Lazarus would approve. I believe Christ would too.