Give me your tired, your poor…

There is probably no more painful, volatile issue facing this nation, and countries all around the world, than the problem of immigration. Whether it’s dealing with undocumented people already here, or massive migration due to war and famine in Africa, or the more recent wave of Syrians  (and other Middle Easterners) moving across Europe, fleeing violence and terrorism in their home countries — the problem is huge.

And, of course, the problem is exacerbated by real, or imagined, fears of terrorism at home, the need for border security and how to do adequate background checks to be as sure as we can that people entering our country (or the other nations of the earth) are not intending harm. I don’t claim to have easy answers or comprehensive solutions to any of this.

In this country at least, that will have to be worked out in the messiness of the democratic process until some just and reasonable consensus can be found. But of one thing I am certain: we cannot run away from this issue or pretend that we do not have a responsibility to address it. For people of faith in the United States, that’s not only because we have always been a nation of immigrants and Lady Liberty proclaims to the world:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

No, it’s not only because of those noble sentiments that we have to be open to immigration, but because – as Jews and Christians – we hear texts like these every weekend: “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest part of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company…and they shall never languish again…I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow…” (Jeremiah 31:8, 12c, 13b)

Passages like these reminded the people of Israel that they had once been exiles themselves and their prophets have always called them to welcome the stranger and the sojourner as well.

And, of course, no less a light than Pope Francis has made this urgent plea, commenting on a passage from the Gospel according to Matthew:

“We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt,” Pope Francis said. “He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady who knows the pain of refugees.”

“The number of these brother (and sister) refugees is growing and, in these past… days, thousands more have been forced to leave their homes in order to save their life. Millions of families, millions of them, refugees from many countries and different faiths, experience in their stories tragedies and wounds that will not likely be healed…Let us be their neighbors, share their fears and uncertainty about the future, and take concrete steps to reduce their suffering.”


In the final analysis, that’s what the Church asks of us. Not to wait until we have solved all the problems, not to avoid wrestling with the issue just because it’s difficult and uncomfortable, but…along with the other nations of the earth to “take concrete steps to reduce their suffering.”


That’s the least we can do, it seems to me. Those of us who trace our heritage back to the people of Israel who have been refugees and immigrants for so much of their history. Those of us who follow the Christ Child who himself – Matthew’s Gospel tells us — was once a refugee in the same part of the world where we find so many of them today.


That’s the least we can do….it seems to me…


In this New Year…









2 Responses to “Give me your tired, your poor…”

  1. Cynthia Hallas Says:

    Chris, I’m enjoying the expanded focus of your blog. I especially appreciate this post. Thank you for your continued witness. We miss you in Chicago!! – Cynthia

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