“May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.” — from the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In just a few days, we will hear the Palm Sunday readings of our Lord’s Passion, from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his betrayal, trial and crucifixion. It is a prelude to the Triduum, culminating in the celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death through his resurrection.
As Christians, we know we don’t arrive at the joy of Easter until we walk with Christ in his suffering on Good Friday. The pain and alienation that Jesus experienced on the road to Calvary is still present in our world today, including in some of our own families and communities.
I think especially of the people who are on the peripheries of society — the poor, the imprisoned, immigrants, and refugees trying to start new lives. Too often, we push them to the edges and turn away from them because of our own fears, false judgments and hardheartedness. People on the peripheries carry a heavy cross — one often made heavier by how we respond, or don’t respond, to their needs.
This is an especially difficult time for people on the margins because of the highly partisan and divisive public policy debates taking place in our nation’s capital. The poor and vulnerable watch and wonder if they will have access to affordable health care in the coming years. Immigrants worry that new policies could lead to more deportations and the splitting up of families.
What’s needed is a Catholic approach to these issues, one that brings much-needed Easter light and hope to these discussions and debates. What does a Catholic approach look like?
It begins by remembering something very basic that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles cautioned recently, regarding immigrants: “We are talking about souls, not statistics.” Every conversation about health care, immigration or any other issue must begin by acknowledging that every human being is created in the image of God and must be treated with respect. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what language we speak, what religion we profess or how much money we make — we are all God’s children.
This fact should be the starting point for our relationships with others and our conversations about public policy priorities. This means our conversations should be rooted in civility, our actions motivated by love, and our public policies grounded in justice for all.
This year our parishes and diocese are participating in the fifth “Encuentro,” a national process to help the church respond better to the presence of our Latino/Hispanic brothers and sisters, who have many gifts to share but often find themselves on the peripheries of our churches and communities. I hope you are participating in this effort in some way in your parish.
But this call to “encounter” others shouldn’t be limited to a certain group. It’s also an opportunity to meet, listen to and support other people who find themselves on society’s peripheries — a woman in a crisis pregnancy, nursing home residents, a homeless person or a refugee family, to name a few.
These experiences have the power to dispel stereotypes and change attitudes. But, more important, they build strong relationships and make us better Christian disciples.
Let us strive to be like the Morning Star we proclaim at the Easter Vigil — the risen Christ who overcomes death and darkness to “shed his peaceful light on humanity.” May that peaceful light be felt by everyone, especially those on the margins, and may you and your loved ones enjoy a blessed Holy Week and Easter season.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler