Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Lectionary: 351

Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

Readily I hear Jesus say I have come to give you life! Eagerly I hear him pray that "your joy may be complete." I welcome the good news of Saint Paul, "Christ died to set you free!"  What could be wrong with life, joy and freedom? Who would hesitate to receive such gifts?

For one thing, we can receive these gifts only after we have received another extraordinary and wonderful gift, which is hospitality. And that particular gift is not equipped with an on/off switch. It's simply ON all the time. It's as open and ready and available as Jesus' wide-spread arms on the cross.

For as long as any American can remember we've discussed our readiness to welcome immigrants to the United States. Recently immigration has become a hot button issue in Europe with the implosion of the Islamic empire. There are more migrants today than ever before in the history of the human race.

From what I know of history, migrating is what we human beings do. We are perpetually fleeing drought, hunger, disease and war to find food, security and freedom. The history of pre-Columbian North America is a story of desertification and climate change as the original peoples mixed nations, tribes and clans. Warfare was common among them as they struggled to survive in a  continent given to droughts, wildfires, blizzards, earthquakes and flooding -- not to mention pestilence. Some simply moved continually.

Every school child in the West should be familiar with the migrations of the Asian Mongolians, who pushed the Germanic tribes of eastern Europe who pushed the Celtic people ever westward.

Even prosperity creates problems: the Vikings, suddenly blessed with several centuries of fair weather, overran their boundaries and set out to conquer the world from Nova Scotia to Moscow and Byzantium. They had a settlement in Greenland (!) for over five centuries before the Little Ice Age forced them to leave.

Resisting migration is like standing on the seashore and commanding the waves to stop. A wall between Mexico and the United States would be no more successful than the Israeli West Bank Barrier  or the Great Wall of China. The project might provide work for a lot of people who would certainly argue for its efficiency but, given our habit of neglecting basic infrastructure, would soon be overrun with inefficiency. I have visited jails and read accounts of prisons and I am convinced it's not that easy to confine, control or resist human beings.

The Gospel insists that we take a different tack. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. It's easy to talk about trust in God who Provides for us. Hospitality to immigrants  invites us to do it.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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