On Sunday, November 23rd, Catholics and others who share the same cycle of readings, heard especially pointed words:
"'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they [i.e., That would be a lot of us.] will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Difficult words for so many of us baby boomers, who grew up on a diet of “Jesus is my cuddly pal” theology!
Those "hungry and you gave me no food…thirsty and you gave me no drink…stranger and you gave me no welcome " parts have me painfully recalling last night's ice cream drowned in Hershey's syrup, contrasted with images of impoverished people fleeing to our borders - many being minors and victims of human trafficking. I have a long way to go, when it comes to generosity and sharing. As noted so well on November 21st by one world leader: “in areas of the world in difficulty, where the lack of work prevents individuals and their families from achieving a dignified life, there is a strong drive to see a better future wherever that may be, even at the risk of disappointment and failure.”
In its emphasis on family preservation, President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action appears to be a step in the right direction. Kids need the protection of their moms and dads. Who among us would want our minor children to be alone in a strange land? Yet, the IAEA is only a tiny, temporary band aid. I agree with the U.S. Catholic Bishops, in that we need comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship, preserves family unity, provides for those with less marketable skills, promotes due process in enforcement, and addresses root cause of why people are leaving their homelands.
The “naked and you gave me no clothing…ill and in prison, and you did not care for me” parts also give me pause. I do try to be thrifty about clothing expenditures, so as to have more to share. Yet to my shame, I have never visited anyone in prison.
I believe that authentic health care is a basic human right, but I am deeply troubled by certain hideous abuses in “health care.” For example, many are familiar with the estimate of nearly 60 million abortions in the U.S., since 1973. Were you to add fetal deaths, owing to the abortifacient qualities of certain “contraceptives,” the number would actually be 308 million (cf, Pharmacists for Life International). Abortion is not health care! At an absolute minimum, there should be comprehensive conscience protections in place for health care workers to refuse involvement in such practices. Kudos to Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Toomey for co-sponsoring the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HR 940 / S1204).
It’s a pretty simple message - If we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit the imprisoned, we will be doing well.