Throughout Lent, we’ll be posting the reflections for each Sunday a few days beforehand so that readers may use them as they see fit in anticipation of the week ahead. We’ll then re-post the reflection on Sunday as well.
by B. Kwame Assenyoh, SVD
Here there is no difference between Jew and Greek; all have the same Creator, rich in mercy toward those who call. (Rom 10:12)
Peter Phan, a theology professor at Georgetown University, recently wrote that the early Christians continued to consider themselves as paroikoi, the Greek term for “foreigners”, even after they had found a home among the settled Jews. As foreigners, Christians by nature are called not to settle, because settling would lead to spiritual death. Rather, led by their sense of being foreigners, Christians would find their own migration as a normal and healthy way to live, to grow and to survive; and they can, in turn, recognize and treat other migrants with the same compassion they have experienced. This year, we enter the First Week of Lent with the call to repent or renew our minds about the way we understand and act toward immigrants and migration into our country. Phan’s point above helps us to see in our readings today why we should see migration as an essential phenomenon of the Christian life.
We hear in the first reading that, after God created them as a settled nation, the Israelites were instructed by God through Moses to still invoke their foreigner (migrant) status when they brought offerings to God. That migrant self-awareness would enable them to see God’s “strong hand and outstretched arm” that made them the prosperous nation they became. Paul sees Christians as the new Israel in this sense of being foreigners. In order to realize the peace of Christ among themselves, Christians must overcome the ethnic and physical differences among people: “Here, there is no difference between Jew or Greek,” insider or outsider, documented or undocumented, etc. Hence the devil’s temptations were basically suggestions to Jesus to settle with the physical, external or earthly power and security. Rather, Jesus chose to keep a migrant’s self-perception and attitude; Jesus would live on God’s word and worship, and trust God in the way migrants do.
- Where do I stand on the issue of immigration and migrants in our country?’
- Do I consider myself a ‘migrant in spirit’?
* This reflection is from Everything is Grace: Reflections for Lent 2016, now available for purchase and download from the Pax Christi USA Store online.