We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)
In January, St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco placed a banner above the doors of the church that proclaims: “Immigrants & Refugees Welcome.” That week, the church community declared public sanctuary, committing ourselves to stand with people at the margins of society and at this time, with our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers.
After the banner was hung, neighbors called asking how they could get involved in accompaniment and advocacy work. People started knocking at the door of the rectory to ask for support. One family needed an immigration attorney. Another person asked for a letter of support for their immigration hearing. A family seeking asylum needed a place to stay for a while.
The community came together. We pooled our resources. We called our friends. We found an attorney. We wrote letters. We set up a makeshift bedroom in one of the church buildings. Mostly, we listened to stories. Stories of heartbreak and suffering. Stories of hope and resurrection. Stories of how, all too often, the systems of our country fail to respect and uphold the human dignity of all people. Mostly, our hearts were and will continue to be transformed.
Declaring sanctuary, in a sense, isn’t anything new. It’s who we, as Jesus’ disciples, are. Our public witness to peace and justice shines a light on the heart of the church and on our truest selves. This is what the Transfiguration of the Lord that we celebrated this Sunday is about. The disciples see who Jesus is, fully human and fully divine: Jesus’ “face shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2). In turn, Jesus shows us our true identity as children of God, Jesus’ beloved ones and as people who “possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable” (2 Peter 1:19).
This prophetic message is rooted in Jesus’ command to love one another and comes with unfailing hope, entrusted to us by the Spirit. As Anne Lamott, author of Hallelujah Anyway, says: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.”
Today and every day, God asks us to listen and respond to the love that God places in our hearts and to let that love lead our lives. And so we Rise Up. We wait and watch and work; we don’t give up.
Natalie Terry is director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center, a ministry of St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco, CA. She has a Masters of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. She is currently working on her thesis for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the area of sacramental theology. She graduated from John Carroll University in 2010 with Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and served as a volunteer with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary in Pulaski, Pennsylvania. Natalie has been a facilitator and prayer leader with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and she serves as a lay preacher, lector, Eucharistic minister and presider of Communion services and Liturgies of the Word. She is also currently serving as the Director of Children’s Faith Formation at St. Agnes Parish. She is originally from Wynantskill, New York.