Advent: Welcoming Jesus, the refugee

By The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

The story we tell at Christmastime of the Holy Family is not so different from the story of families today.

There was no welcome in Bethlehem for the Holy Family after their long journey, so they were forced to sleep in a barn (Lk 2:7). Violence and persecution forced the Holy Family to flee to safety in Egypt, where they lived as refugees (Mt 2: 13-15).

This timeless story, like much of the Old and the New Testaments, reveals God’s abiding love for migrants. Reflecting on these sacred foundations, the Catholic Church recognizes that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives, and the lives of their families, if they cannot do so in their country of origin.

As we celebrate the second week of Advent, we ask ourselves: “where are we refusing to give welcome today?

One answer is along the US/MX border. There, the “Remain in Mexico” policy is forcing over 60,000 people to wait in Mexico for months before they can appeal for safety in the United States. Most of these families are fleeing the same kind of violence and persecution the Holy Family fled.

Forcing people to wait in Mexico is extremely dangerous. Many migrants do not have a place to stay, so they sleep on the streets. Many children go without education or adequate medical care. Many – especially women – have been kidnapped, trafficked, extorted, and assaulted.

You can learn more about the “Remain in Mexico” policy here.

At the border, Pope Francis reminds us that we have “an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age.” This Advent, that invitation is especially urgent.

Photo above: Migrant city tent in Matamoros, bordering Brownsville, Texas. (Photo by Leidy Perez-Davis.)

[The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach was founded in 1985 as the national advocacy office for the Missionary Society of St. Columban in the United States. It serves as the line of communication between Columban missionaries on the ground and policy makers in Washington, D.C. The Center uses Catholic Social Teaching as its lens to engage in legislative advocacy and community engagement.]

What is your image of Jesus? Come explore this question with us at the Renewal Center for A Day of Advent Prayer on Dec. 14, when we’ll be guided through Matthew’s infancy narrative by Fr. Ron Will, C.PP.S.