There’s an urgency in Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is on the move, quickly, paving his way to salvation. If you want to follow him, you need to let the dead bury the dead and don’t even make plans about saying goodbye to mom and dad—the time to move is now. I wonder, does he even give us a second to catch our breath?
A recent report from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees states that, as of 2018, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. That’s 70.8 million people who have had to give up their homes and livelihoods for the sake of finding safety. Heart-wrenching decisions to leave are made within minutes. Families are separated. The dead are left behind.Earlier this year I met with Venezuelan migrants in Ecuador. Parents told me their heartbreaking stories of losing their income and being unable to provide food for their children in Venezuela. Some sold all their possessions just to afford medication. Without access to healthcare due to hospital shutdowns and inflated costs, a minor health concern could become life or death. They had to move.
Many told me that they held on to home for as long as they could, but then, in an instant, they would have to leave it all behind. The risk of an arduous journey seemed small compared to losing everything at home. To move was to survive, an exercise of freedom, and a source of hope. The heavy cost of migration would provide their salvation.
Here in the U.S., we know that our neighbors are knocking on our door seeking refuge. We can think of a thousand excuses as to why we shouldn’t answer that door. The reality is that we are afraid to get up, for that requires us to leave something behind. Must the refugee be the only one to pay that price? What are we so afraid of? Our comfort is not our salvation.
He said it so simply, “Follow me.”
Josh Utter is originally from Madison, WI, and a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, IA. Based in Phoenix, AZ, Josh is the outreach officer for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.