In 2015, hundreds of thousands of middle easterners (mostly from the war-torn Syria) were coming into Germany escaping war, poverty and, in most cases, persecution. I was very surprised to learn that at the beginning of the mass migration many Germans had welcomed refugees with open arms. Nonetheless, as more and more people were coming in, sentiments of fright, together with ignorance, were on the rise. As global migration increases, the way migrants are received and encountered varies from place to place.
In today’s Gospel, we notice that Jesus, who was a Nazarene, was welcomed by the Galileans. However, the bible is very explicit when it tells us that Galileans had seen what Jesus had done in Jerusalem; therefore, they would have been crazy if they did not welcome Him in their land. On the other hand, we also notice a man, a royal officer, whose religion differs from that of the Jews—a man who has never heard in his entire life about a Messiah who will come with miracles and to save us. However, that man shows he is a true believer in Jesus’ power, even by not seeing, but by sensing.
If Jesus were to come again, wouldn’t we receive Him with open arms like the Galileans did? Wouldn’t we welcome Him into our lands like the Galileans did?
Jesus has tried to come to us and we, knowingly, but refusing to believe, have prevented Him from entering into our lands. We have encountered Him with anger, disdain, and force. Among hundreds of children, Jesus is there. Among parents facing desperation, leaving places of violence, drugs, poverty, and barbarism, Jesus is there.
We Christians, are not welcoming Him. We are not willing to hear the countless cries of children and parents feeling hopelessness and fear.
Jesus is a migrant among migrants. Do we see Him? Do we welcome Him? How many children do we see who are trying to come into different places in our world? Instead of trying to understand their suffering, we throw tear gas and prevent them from entering.
I wonder—if the royal officer were alive today, if he would have known what we know about Christianity, would he ignore Jesus’ attempt to come into our lands? The Gospel is clear: true faith is about sensing, but not seeing. In a world that emphasizes the visual, we want to see signs. Let’s go deeper than that and sense Jesus, just like the royal officer did, instead of praying for signs.
José Roque Alfaro is a Spanish Heritage teacher at Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School. He was born in El Salvador and came to the United States when he was 15 years old. A true believer in the social teachings of our beloved Father Arrupe, Mr. Alfaro finds purpose in life by walking with the least privileged and the forgotten.