There are many in the Church today who feel that sinners should be banned from the Eucharistic table. Similarly, there are many who fight for the exclusion of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. I hear a common thread in the language used by groups, and that common thread is “purity”. They say that we need to keep the Church “pure” by excluding any who don’t keep absolute fidelity to every word of Church teaching. They say that we need to keep our country “pure” by excluding any who don’t fit into the Christian majority that founded the nation.
The biggest problem I have with these positions is that they do not reflect the Gospel or the example set by Jesus. Even the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery were later welcomed back to the table of Egypt’s plenty by that very brother. Even tax collectors, public sinners, and the hated Samaritans were welcomed in Jesus’ ministry and at his table. Even the Gentiles were invited to become equal partners in The Way. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were themselves a family of refugees seeking asylum and fleeing from the very real threat of those who would take the young boy’s life. What if Egypt had denied them entry?
Jesus practiced, lived, and taught inclusivity. This compassion and inclusivity is also emphasized in the documents of the Congregation of the Passion (Constitutions #3), which proclaim that we must stand with the suffering and crucified people of this world who are one with us in our common humanity and divine calling, “…especially those who are poor and neglected… to offer them comfort and to relieve the burden of their sorrow. The power of the Cross…gives us strength to discern and remove the causes of human suffering.” I can’t reconcile Jesus and the Passionist charism with the strident positions I so frequently hear and read in our world. I only know that I cannot adopt those positions in conscience, and along with every Catholic, I have to obey my conscience.
So instead, I choose to humbly recognize my own sinfulness, though it is not often publicly viewable, and come to the table with all the other sinners gathered for Mass. I choose to reach out my hand to those who are different from me, and learn from their culture, faith, stories, and heritage. I choose to work for just admittance of refugees and asylum seekers no matter their nationality. They are all my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. They are the crucified Christ in our midst. They are in need, and I believe Jesus commands me to serve them.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.