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Promoting a Church and a world for ALL

Archbishop's homily at Migration Day Mass, on feast of Epiphany 2020

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the annual Migration Day Mass, celebrated Jan. 5, 2020, at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

The Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” (Mt 2: 11) These mysterious wise men symbolize the nations beyond Israel. Jesus came to save them as well – and not just the Jews.

It is no coincidence, then, that the Catholic Church here in the United States begins its celebration of National Migration Week with today’s solemn feast of the Epiphany. And at today’s Mass, the nations are certainly present.

This year’s observance of National Migration Week has as its theme, “Promoting a Church and a World for ALL.” Certainly, as Catholics, we must recommit ourselves to making our parishes homes where all can feel at home. The Church is “the Father’s house”; and the best way to make people feel at home in their Father’s house is to speak their mother’s tongue. But we also want people to feel “at home” in their neighborhoods and their communities. Today, too many people feel fear because of a broken immigration system that affords them no sure path to legal residency or citizenship. Others may feel excluded or marginalized because of xenophobic or racist prejudice.

We need more just immigration laws – laws that help unite families not divide them, laws that help integrate newcomers by making them stakeholders within the system, and not laws that, for lack of fair remedies, continue to marginalize and isolate men and women who only want the opportunity to make an honest living

Unfortunately, globalization – the shrinking of the world we live in through technology and, to be sure, through migration – has made us all neighbors but not necessarily brothers and sisters. Instead of a globalization of solidarity, we see too often a globalization of indifference.

Thus, the Church – the Church that celebrates the Universality of Salvation at Epiphany - must counter this globalization of indifference by witnessing to all what a reconciled and reconciling world should look like. We are one family – brothers and sisters of one Father – not through flesh and blood but through water and the Holy Spirit. As a Catholic people made up of many ethnicities and nationalities, speaking different languages with different cultures, we are one in Christ – and in Christ, we recognize that through our diversity we can enrich each other. For in the Body of Christ, diversity does not divide us – only sin can divide us; but Christ is stronger than sin.

And so, as this year’s theme has it, promoting a Church and a world for ALL, we “welcome the stranger.” For in reflecting on the immigrant experience, we can draw a parallel to Jesus’ coming among us as man and a newcomer’s arrival in a strange land. We embrace the stranger who, as among the “least of our brethren,” reveals to us the face of Christ.

In promoting a Church and a world for ALL, we also seek to protect the rights and the dignity of the migrant, especially of the refugee. Here in the Archdiocese, we, Catholics, can take holy pride in our Catholic Legal Services and our Catholic Charities for their advocacy and work in our immigrant and refugee communities. Catholic Legal Services, with 28 attorneys in three offices in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, provides free or low-cost legal representation to thousands of newcomers every year. For 60 years, Catholic Charities has cared for unaccompanied minors and helped thousands of refugees to resettle here and begin new lives. In our parishes and in our schools – both our Catholic schools as well as our public schools – immigrants and their children should be afforded the means to realize their fullest potential and thus make their greatest contribution to their families and their adoptive land.

And recognizing that people without “roots” (spelled r-o-o-t-s) can easily become “ruthless” (r-u-t-h-l-e-s-s), our ethnic ministries promote their people’s ethnic heritages – and languages. To become a “good Catholic” one does not have to change his culture, his language, his traditions – one only must change his heart. And we become “good Americans” not by rejecting the values and traditions of our parents – for our roots give us the strength and stability to succeed in America. Our ethnic associations, our language communities, our extended families and relationships foster integration rather than impede it – for people best integrate from a position of strength – and not weakness or isolation.

The mysterious star led the Magi to the Christ Child. Certainly, they must have been surprised by what they found at the end of their journey. We can be sure this new King to whom they now paid homage was not what they expected. Remember they first went to Jerusalem, to King Herod. They, like we must, had to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. The light of the star led them not to the rich palaces of Jerusalem but to a humble hovel in Bethlehem.

There the light of the star was replaced with the light of faith so that they might recognize in the Baby in his Mother’s arms the Promised King for whom they had searched. Surprised by God, they had to change their ideas – about power, about God, about man. They had to change themselves. Their encounter with Christ called them to conversion. This conversion is symbolized by their returning home “a different way.”

This year’s National Migration Week theme, “Promoting a Church and a World for ALL,” is also a call to conversion. We need the light of faith to enlighten us, as the light of faith enlightened the Magi.

In a world of broken promises and fragile hopes, may our Church, in her wonderful diversity of cultures and languages, be always a beacon of hope, a light to the world. By modeling what a reconciled world could look like, we can — with the help of God’s grace — show those whom globalization has made neighbors how to live as brothers and sisters.

May the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Magi on their journey and sustained their hope, be always the point of reference to help all peoples, all nations, find their way to Christ.

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