I came across this poster in Washington, D.C. at a rally in support of Muslims, back in January. Six months later, the irony and its significance hits us like a ton of bricks, as instead of the United States welcoming the immigrant, children are being stripped away from their parents’ arms and separated at the border.
This week, a church in Indiana put a statue of the Holy Family inside a cage, representing an ICE detention center. Much like Jesus crying out at the end of his life, “forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do” – it is a wake-up call to those who do not see the similarities between the life and family of Jesus Christ and those being turned away and treated as less than human today. If Christianity does not show us how to act in the face of such injustice, surely we will continue to live in a land of separation and lack of community. As Michael Moore said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “if we started acting the way we were taught, in Catholic school, or in Bible school, wherever you went, we will have a different country, but not until then.”
As with the image of Lady Liberty holding the immigrant child in her arms in a time of separation of children from families at the border, a caged Holy Family shows the stark contrast between the principles that the U.S. was founded upon, and the Biblical call to welcome the stranger and the immigrant, and the reality of what the U.S. government and immigration officials are currently doing. Instead of such hypocrisy, I believe we need to take a deeper look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a woman who brought Christ into the world who continues to show us how to love and how to live, we would do much better than to dismiss her importance as many Protestants do. As a willing participant in the co-creation of life with God, Mary represents a generative capacity of love and abundance we desperately need to reestablish. Most of the immigrants crossing borders are doing so because they feel their lives are in danger, and/or they cannot live off their native lands any longer. Corrupt governments allow corporations to plunder land and threaten, destroy and contaminate food and water sources in the name of profit or the fighting over natural resources. But the life-giving image of Mary, and the generative capacity of Mother Earth, provide us with an alternative of abundance, nurturing and welcoming.
This 4th of July, as we mourn the failure of U.S. to stand true to the words holding up Lady Liberty - “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” – may we reflect on how different the world would be if we took the example of Mary seriously, valuing the love and generative capacity of the feminine to give, nourish, and sustain life.
We can all do something. Seek out a group near you to support that is working in support of keeping families together. Cayuga Centers has an Amazon Wish List for the children in its care. And the Franciscan Action Network is asking Franciscan churches around the country to send in their photos from local Keeping Families Together marches so we can start to build more unity and momentum. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing.”
THIS IS MY SONG
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.