|The Jubilee, which we are rapidly approaching, is an extraordinary moment of grace and reconciliation.|
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In a very particular way, it also involves the world of migrants, because of the close similarities between their condition and that of believers. "The whole of the Christian life", I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, "is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father" (n. 49).
"The land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me" (Lv 25: 23). These words of the Lord, recorded in the Book of Leviticus, contain the fundamental reason for the biblical Jubilee, which, for Abraham's descendants, corresponds to their awareness of being guests and pilgrims in the Promised Land. The New Testament extends this conviction to every disciple of Christ who, as a citizen of the heavenly homeland has no lasting dwelling-place on this earth and lives as a wanderer, constantly seeking a final destination.
By her nature, the Church is in solidarity with the world of migrants who, with their variety of languages, races, cultures and customs, remind her of her own condition as a people on pilgrimage from every part of the earth to their final homeland. This vision helps Christians to reject all nationalistic thinking and to avoid narrow ideological categories. It reminds them that the Gospel should be incarnated in life in order to become its leaven and soul, also through a constant effort to free it from the cultural incrustations that inhibit its inner dynamism.
God reveals himself in the Old Testament as the One who takes the side of the stranger, the side, that is, of the people of Israel enslaved in Egypt. In the New Law he reveals himself in Jesus, born in a stable on the outskirts of town, "because there was no place for them in the inn" (Lk 2: 7), and who had nowhere to lay his head throughout his public ministry (cf. Mt 8: 20; Lk 9: 58). The Cross, the center of Christian Revelation, is the culminating moment of this radical condition as a stranger: Christ dies "outside the gate" (Heb 13: 12), rejected by his own people. However, John the Evangelist recalls Jesus' prophetic words. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (12: 32). John stresses that precisely by his death Jesus will begin to "gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11: 52). In following the Master's example, the Church too lives as he did in the world with the attitude of a pilgrim, working to create communion, a welcoming home where the dignity conferred by the Creator is recognized in each human being. Charity, in its twofold reality as love of God and neighbor, is the summing up of the moral life of the believer. It has in God its source and its goal.
For the Christian, every human being is a "neighbor" to be loved. He should not ask himself whom he should love, because to ask, "who is my neighbor?" is already to set limits and conditions. The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 30-37) invites everyone to reach out beyond the bounds of justice in the perspective of gratuitous and unlimited love. For the believer, moreover, charity is God's gift, a charism which, like faith and hope, is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5: 5). As God's gift, it is not utopian but concrete; it is the Good News, the Gospel.
The parish, which etymologically means a house where the guest feels at ease, welcomes all and discriminates against none, for no one there is an outsider. It combines the stability and security people feel in their own home with the movement or transience of those who are passing through. Wherever there is a living sense of parish, differences between locals and strangers fade or disappear in the overriding awareness that all belong to God, the one Father.
The importance of the parish in welcoming the stranger, in integrating baptized persons from different cultures and in dialoguing with believers of other religions stems from the mission of every parish community and its significance within society. This is not an optional, supplementary role for the parish community, but a duty inherent in its task as an institution. Catholicity is not only expressed in the fraternal communion of the baptized, but also in the hospitality extended to the stranger, whatever his religious belief, in the rejection of all racial exclusion or discrimination, in the recognition of the personal dignity of every man and woman and, consequently, in the commitment to furthering their inalienable rights.
Condensed from the Holy Fathers Message for World Migration Day, on 2 February 1999 in Rome. The full text is available at www.vatican.va, the Vatican Web Site.You can receive the English edition of LOsservatore Romano,where this article also appears by e-mailing a request for a subscription to Dmedinger@aol.com or by calling (410)547-5380. The subscription rate is $151.00 U.S.
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