Homily: Migrant & Refugee Sunday
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
Each week we bring the experiences of the past week – both the joys and struggles – offering them to the Lord in the Eucharist. I have been reflecting on my journey this past week.
All the Priests of the Diocese gathered at Moama for an In-Service planned by Fr. Joe Taylor and Fr. Brian Boyle. One of the features of the week was a segment when the Priests who have come to our Diocese from overseas spoke about their family and faith backgrounds in differing cultures. Listening to them, I realized even more what a great sacrifice they make and what a huge learning curve it is for them coming to our secular environment. The adjustment is for us also – do we seek not only to accept them but also to understand what they bring to us? Of local interest is the fact that when Fr. Morley retires shortly, Fr. John Paul from Kerala who is presently in St. Brendan’s will become the administrator of Tatura.
During the week, the media kept us up-to-date with the court proceedings for Card. Pell. It is a difficult time for any survivors of sexual abuse and for families and friends who support them. Our pastoral care must be for those victims and we seek to bring healing to those who have suffered. At the same time, we need to ensure that Catholic settings are the safest possible places for all people – but especially for children and vulnerable adults.
Today’s Gospel tells us “that people will come from east and the west and from the north and south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” Conscious that this is Migrant & Refugee Sunday, we realize that we can’t welcome all comers at just any hour of the day or night. At our national borders, we expect our political leaders to maintain security, while admitting migrants and refugees in manageable numbers.
Last year, our Bishops asked our politicians to put an end to the intolerable situation on Nauru and on Manus Islands experienced by asylum seekers. Their plight continues to be our responsibility. Some of these refugees have had their lives put on hold in distressing circumstances for more than six years.
Living, as we do, on an island nation continent, it is easy for us Australians simply to put out of mind those fleeing persecution, and those who no longer have a place to call home.
Our 1st reading was from the prophet Isaiah. There the Lord spoke with hope about those: “who shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord – on horses, and in chariots and in carts, upon mules and dromedaries to Jerusalem my holy mountain”.
We enjoy the benefits of peaceful lives in our Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. We need to ask ourselves can we take some extra practical steps individually and collectively to provide a home for some who deserve more than a closed door of fear and isolation. What is it like, I wonder, to be on the other side of the door – knocking; or if we were on the other side of the national border – pleading?
Pray that we will continue to be a genuinely welcoming community (within our neighbourhood and our parish). Nourished by our Eucharist may we be always ready to extend the hand of welcome and so be ready “to enter through the narrow gate” as we heard in the Gospel.
*21st Sunday Ordinary Time