Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God.
I see three distinct themes in our readings for today: comfort, preparation of the ‘Way’, and the promise of something better as we walk into the future.
God asks through Isaiah that we give comfort to God’s people. Later we are told to speak tenderly to God’s people as we listen to the voice that cries out in the desert: a voice that lifts its song in lament but hope.
In Psalm 85 we are invited to walk along the path, preparing the way for the coming of the Lord, and experiencing what realities lie on the way. We are called to journey and to discover truth, kindness, justice, and peace.
And finally, in Mark’s gospel, we are entrusted with making the path, the way for God, straight. A path leading to a new heaven and a new earth; one free of injustices, violence, injury, and falsehoods.
As I still myself to reflect on the challenge of these readings today, while working at the border of Guatemala and Mexico in the southwest of the country, I see the thousands of migrants from all over the world passing before me. A steady, unrelenting stream of God’s people needing comfort, crying out in the wasteland for a new home free from poverty, violence, and despair. As the migrating families make their way north to the United States, I pray that our simple actions here at St. Mary’s Hospice can bring some comfort to God’s people. We pass out a care package of soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, diapers for the babies, sunblock against the searing sun, rubber sandals to protect feet from the scorching tarmac roads, bottles of fresh drinking water, and sweet cookies for the children.
Like never before, the gospel speaks to us of our role in preparing the way for the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. We need to speak out in truth and justice to those who would receive the Lord; those who will receive the migrants. We need to renew our baptismal promises to work always for a better world where everyone is welcomed, and all are recognized as God’s people. Mary and Joseph started on the path and prepared the way for the birth of their Son, the chosen one. Their legacy lives on in all the migrants who leave their homeland and struggle to make the path straight for their children and grandchildren. Let us all join the migrants in spirit; let us comfort them as they look for their new heaven on this earth.
Questions for reflection
- How is God calling you to prepare a way for God to be with us?
- What does a world where everyone is welcomed look like to you?
We pray to you for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life. Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished. May we never forget them, but honor their sacrifice with deeds more than words. We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope. Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through our tenderness and protection. In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.
- Pope Francis
- Consider answers to tough questions about immigration provided by the U.S. Catholic Bishops https://www.usccb.org/migrationministries
In my experience as a boarding school teacher of secondary school girls in Tanzania, I was often responsible for discipline, and mercy was always a challenge for me. The school community has rules, and when those rules are not obeyed, consequences follow. But the many times when the rule-breaker threw herself at my feet begging for mercy, that is when I felt conflicted. So many questions would rush through my mind. Do I show mercy or do I stick to the rules? How does my decision affect the rest of the community? What ought to be the relationship between mercy and law? What is fair? How do I decide?
It seems like I can see others experiencing the same inner turmoil when looking at the situation of migrants and refugees these days in Europe and at the U.S. southern border. I suppose there are some people who wish ill, but I am sure there are many more who feel inclined towards mercy, and yet are conflicted on what to do. It is obvious that we, the United States, and other governments need systems changes and immigration reforms, and we, each one of us, need to advocate and work toward this. In the meantime, in our day-to-day living, what do we do now?
- Sister Darlene Jacobs
Photo of Sister Dee Smith, MM, delivering aid to migrants on the Guatemala-Mexico border courtesy of author. Photo of Sister Darlene Jacobs, MM, from the Maryknoll Sisters website.