It is pretty easy these days to initiate a conversation or more accurately an argument by simply bringing up the Syrian Refugee crisis. Very quickly there are two polar opposite camps that debate, why we should or why we should not. Some will contend that it is simply the right thing to do while others, will argue about the current economic times and the need to look after home first. Add the fear of terrorism into the equation and you have a full-out brawl of ideology!
But I want to take us back to a much simpler time before I deal with any side of the above argument. It is the time of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to rest in order for the birth of Christ. There was no room! Nobody offered a room for the birth of the Christ child. Nobody opened the door to give shelter to a pregnant woman into their midst. We would all like to believe that we would open the door but the question is would we?
It might be easy for us to respond as the good Samaritan when assisting a pregnant woman but what about the homeless, the addict, the imprisoned, or the disabled? Do we provide the corporal works of mercy to all or to those that fit our bill and satisfy our need? And do we just “give” during the Christmas season because it is on our mind or do we “give” year round? I'm quite sure that the corporal works of mercy: Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Shelter the homeless; Visit the sick; Visit the imprisoned; Bury the dead, have no time limit on them.
What would our world be like if we chose to offer mercy each and every day instead of when we feel the need? How would our world be if we gave what we had instead of out of our excess? How do we respond to the passage in Luke that says,
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
All of us should feel a little bit of shame knowing that we haven’t helped our neighbours near or far when we could. We’ve all (including myself) cut a wide path around the beggar or the drunk. How quick we are to point fingers at others when we should really be pointing fingers at ourselves.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
We all have poor and destitute in our communities who we’ve chosen to ignore long before this wave of refugees. We’ve justified our reasons for not helping and yet now, we use those same or new poor to say we can’t open our borders to refugees. This should not be a choice on whether to welcome the Syrian refugees or to help those in our country. Instead it should be a wakeup call to simply act with mercy for all who live in our homeland and abroad! Don’t make this an either/or debate, do both!
Chris Smeaton is the Superintendent for Holy Spirit Catholic Schools located in southwest Alberta.
Article originally posted on December 30, 2015 on The Superintendent's Blog - Holy Spirit Catholic Schools