The Gospel Is Alive Today!
Sometimes the Scriptures seem ancient, and other times very timely. Recently I celebrated the Eucharist with a group of about 16 recent immigrants and our normal evening group. The Gospel was Matthew 15:29-37, describing how Jesus healed many people, then wanted to give them something to eat for fear they would collapse. Since some in our group spoke only English and some only Spanish, I read the Gospel in Spanish and preached a bilingual homily. Though I had some reflections prepared it struck me that the passage was not just about Jesus 2,000 years ago, but was very relevant for this group. The immigrants are asylum seekers who had traveled from Central America and received permission from Immigration officials in El Paso to live in the United States with relatives while they make a formal request in a court for approval.
They were tired when they arrived the previous day, some were sick. Many had little to eat during the journey. We gave them a warm welcome, hope, and prayed with them when they arrived. We provided a simple meal of soup and rice, and parents who had shared their one burrito and a box of juice per day while in El Paso, could let their children and themselves eat till they were full, and we still had leftovers. Doctors and nurses gave their time to attend to those who were sick and weak. Volunteers helped them find donated clothes and toiletries, and get settled in rooms with heat and beds and a shower. Other volunteers helped make travel arrangements to go live with their relatives in the US so they wouldn’t be a burden on anyone. During the mass most children were quiet, but three year old Pascual played in the side aisle, running and laughing. The greeting of peace was a moment of joy among even those who didn’t share a language.
We had just experienced what Jesus had felt, showing compassion for the sick and hungry and tired, and giving them strength and encouragement. Because of the faith and generosity of many, everyone had enough and they could continue on with their journey and their lives. Pascual didn’t seem to be paying attention till the end when everyone said, “Amen” after the blessing. Then he too called out, “Amen!” God is with us. The passage from Matthew is very much alive and we were all nourished.
Fr. Tom Smith OFM Conv. Director of Holy Cross Retreat Center