BY MATT IPPEL, S.J. | April 5, 2019
Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español

“That khawaja, he’s the pilot.” I overhear these words returning to the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) center with Stephen, a refugee who helps provide psychosocial services. As we walk, Stephen chuckles, translating the phrase: khawaja means foreigner. Many humanitarian workers are foreigners who come and go, like pilots and their planes.

In Maban, South Sudan, home to 150,000 refugees spread across four refugee camps, the temptation of piloting in and out is real. The transformative work JRS does is a small piece of a larger, complicated puzzle. And, the heat can be overwhelming. Being separated from close friends and comfort foods can be isolating. Hearing stories of suffering and abandonment is heartbreaking. Plus, the violence and high levels of insecurity are threatening. So, yes, there are moments I wish to be a pilot.

Reflecting on the Gospel, I realize how easily Jesus could pilot into the lands of milk and honey, only to leave after challenges and threats intensified. He could have toned down denouncing injustices. He could have lightened the radicalism of his love.

Yet, Jesus chose to stay with the marginalized and excluded. And, he did so amid humiliation and persecution. At any moment, he could have avoided being ignored, stigmatized, criminalized, and assassinated. Instead, Jesus entered into our world to explicitly stand with outcasts and the oppressed to ignite justice and love. Jesus did not pilot out; he landed the plane and remained grounded, with us.

Jesus challenges us to embrace radical discipleship, requiring us to place our lot with the disparaged and persecuted and inviting us to “go and do likewise.” How am I called to break free from the temptation to pilot through challenging and heartbreaking realities facing our world? How do I remain, like Jesus, with refugees, orphans, widows, etc., and break open doors of justice and peace in our world?

2 replies
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    Tom and Mary Frances Burke says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post. I(MF) love the metaphor of Jesus landing the plane, but especially staying grounded with the marginalized — and we are all marginalized each in our own way. I need to hear that he is still grounded and with us right in our midst in these troubling times! It is comforting, but challenges me every day to seek him out in those I meet and to be his presence to those most in need. Thanks again!

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