When I read the first line of the readings, that “Job spoke, saying: ‘Is not a person’s life on earth a drudgery?’” my heart sank, because my thoughts and prayers these days are about the horrific occurrences in the Holy Land, with Israel constantly bombing Gaza, 25,000 dead to date, and the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank by settlers, with the reason given being revenge for the killing by Hamas of 1200 Israelis in early October, 2023…. I think of how the lives of Palestinians have definitely been a drudgery under the 75 years of the occupation by Israel, with little hope in sight, now with such death and destruction, and there are other places in our troubled world where the people’s thoughts are similar to Job’s: “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope remembering that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”
But then, the hope comes in FAITH, in Psalm 147! “Praise God, who heals the brokenhearted…” How does this “healing” come about? According to the Psalmist, “God is good, gracious, God rebuilds, the dispersed God gathers, healing the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. God sustains the lowly, the wicked God casts to the ground…” Don’t we wish that God would intervene and stop the violence?
Yet, I am given HOPE in how Jesus works, through others, like you and me.
In Mark’s Gospel about Jesus visiting Simon’s mother-in-law, it is the apostles Simon, Andrew, James, and John who tell Jesus that she is sick with a fever. (In those days, we can imagine, fevers could be deadly.) The apostles were active in facilitating the healing. It is written that the apostles brought many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, and to cap off the story, Mark says the apostles told Jesus that “everyone is looking for you.” He immediately responded, “Let us go to the villages” and He went to preach and drive out demons throughout Galilee.
These readings tell us what is happening today also. I see it in my ministry at the U.S./Mexico border. In previous scripture reflections, others have described so well the hardships of migrants and refugees who are seeking safety and shelter. Even Jesus’ birth, which we celebrated recently, remind us how Mary and Joseph became refugees too, escaping Herod’s law to kill innocent babies.
The connection for me between the reading and the work of mission is what I have seen in so many generous volunteers who work in so many ways at the shelters near the U.S./Mexico border, doing all they can to “heal the brokenhearted, and bind up their wounds.” It is the way of the Apostles using Jesus’ power to love Mercy, to do Justice, to become a “Beloved Community”, for us, a Christian, Christ-like community.
Many of us think of El Paso as a “Beloved Community” because of the welcome given not only to us who come as volunteers, but welcoming the migrants and asylum seekers themselves—many of whom are escaping the violence of gangs, poverty, land-grabbers, or climate change.
In the shelter I work in, I have met migrants and refugees who have suffered much on their journeys. Among them was a beautiful woman from Guatemala who was raped and badly beaten and left to die. She was rescued, but her leg was so infected it had to be amputated. One young man from Guatemala survived a fire in a Mexican detention center where 40 other migrants perished. The young man lived, but was in a coma for 2 months and still suffers from lasting complications and is now slowly healing at the shelter.
And there are also many examples of local persons and groups who prepare meals, bring basic supplies like soap, clothing, diapers, etc., or who will take time to drive the folks to a bus or the airport as they travel to their family or sponsors who buy tickets for them. Both local people and the many volunteers who come to the border from almost every part of the U.S., are enriched and blessed. They get to know the migrants in their humility and gratitude for a welcome and services.
Here in El Paso where many migrants/refugees pass through, the shelters depend on volunteers, and we are all so grateful to know of the loving support of persons who feel called to be disciples, to be the “hands, feet, heart and mind of Jesus.” The Spirit is alive and well, calling many to give a hand to those feeling the “drudgery of their existence.” Thank God for Jesus’ example and call to: “heal the brokenhearted, bind up their wounds,” and thank God for the many who support us. We all do what we can, with the power Jesus gives.
Photo of migrants in the Sacred Heart shelter in El Paso, Texas, courtesy of Maryknoll Lay Missioners.