Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Emanuel and Esperanza Gonzalez entered the United States with their two small children in 1998.Escaping abject poverty in their Mexican village, they crossed into our country without documents seeking any opportunity to provide basic needs for their family. Once settled, they worked hard in low wage jobs, paid taxes like everyone else, and provided for their family. They had another child in 2005.

A year ago, in a sweep for undocumented workers, Emanuel, Esperanza and their two oldest children were arrested and deported back to Mexico. However, their six-year old son, born in the United States and therefore a citizen, was taken from them and placed in our foster care system with little hope of seeing his family again. Other than their status as undocumented workers, they were law-abiding residents. They were faithful churchgoers; good parents and their children were highly regarded in local schools and neighborhoods. Yet, when deported, their youngest child was taken from them and their family was shattered.

The Catholic Church recognizes the rights of persons and families to move within their country, or from one nation to another in search for decent living conditions. The Catholic Church also acknowledges that all countries have a right to good public order including control of their borders.[1] Somewhere in this seemingly contradictory conflict of rights, there are opportunities to address all needs for public order based on justice and security. A life of solidarity insists that public order will be discovered in what is truly human, and not the other way around.The subject of immigration policy is very complicated and finds people of good will on many sides of the issue.

In his teaching on the Eucharist and daily life, Pope Benedict writes, "In discussing the social responsibility of all Christians… the sacrifice of Christ is a mystery of liberation that constantly and insistently challenges us. I therefore urge all the faithful to be true promoters of peace and justice: All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation" (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 78).

The Risen Lord draws us into his eternal sacrifice at every gathering for the Eucharist. Our life is called to a complete transformation into the life of Christ. As we consume The Eucharist, The Eucharist is meant to consume us. Our life becomes the life of Christ. Our pleasures and desires are transformed into the Lord's pleasures and desires. Our hopes and dreams are shaped by God's dreams. Our vision becomes Christ's vision. Our heart becomes the very heart of Jesus loving all humanity with a passion that also becomes a divine passion within us.

Three Sundays ago we began the proclamation of Jesus' Bread of Life discourse from St. John's Gospel. Jesus begins his discourse after feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes. Moved with compassion by their hunger, Jesus taught his disciples that following him required the same compassion from them. This compassion would later compel them to engage those deprived and suffering throughout the world.

Over the many centuries, the Church has spoken this truth with many images and symbols. During his long pontificate, Saint John Paul II promoted this compassionate engagement using the term "solidarity." Certainly, the Solidarity labor movement in his native Poland during the 1980's influenced his using this term. The Solidarity labor movement was one cause for undermining the Communist grip on all of Eastern Europe following World War II.

But the word "solidarity" had been used in Catholic social teaching and various labor movements for generations beforehand. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of solidarity with his frequent use of this word in several writings on Catholic social teaching.

Incorporating Saint John Paul's teachings, the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church presents solidarity as"an authentic moral virtue, not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is afirm and persevering determination to commit oneself to thecommon good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. Solidarity rises to the rank of fundamental social virtue since it places itself in the sphere of justice" (Compendium, no. 193).

Saint John Paul's urgent call to solidarity has major implications for the Gonzalez family. Their story is actually a composite of reality facing many undocumented families in our nation. Recent research conducted by the Applied Research Center estimates that at least 5100 children in our foster care system were removed from parents deported under immigration law.[2] As a church so strongly committed to family life, this shattering of families through federal law is heart breaking and searing of our national conscience. What "public good" or "national security" issue requires these families being broken apart? Church teaching promotes reuniting immigrant families as a right to be respected and honored (Compendium, no. 298).

Solidarity requires us to see ourselves and see the world around us through the vision of the Risen Lord. We are to re-evaluate our own values and society's values through the lens of morality flowing from the glorified humanity of Christ. We are to seek the healing and renewal of the human community empowered by the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Solidarity requires us to stand with families from being needlessly broken apart. Solidarity does not pretend to have easy or simple solutions but rather, acknowledges life's complexities, and unintended consequences. Furthermore, solidarity commits us to stand with these families, advocate on their behalf, and discern through dialogue paths of resolution that are just and honorable.

The Eucharist calls us to a life of solidarity. Solidarity is a connection and a commitment to the common good. It is a vision of justice that embraces all people, and realizes that God's creation is meant to sustain the basic human needs of all people, and enable the flourishing of human communities. Solidarity requires a demanding moral vision, an uncompromising respect for the dignity of each and every person, and a justice that serves all people.

These and all economic and political issues are both complex and difficult. But the Church insists these are also moral problems requiring a moral vision. Solidarity requires advocacy and works of justice assuring that all people have the opportunities to participate in the good of creation, and to contribute their responsible portion for others to benefit. This process involves listening, learning, discerning, acting, and then repeating the process over and over again.

Saint John Paul once wrote, "Countless are the emergencies to which every Christian heart must be sensitive" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 2000, no. 51). No one of us can do it all. But all of us together can impact the world around us with the vision and power of the Risen Lord flowing from the Eucharist.

Pope Benedict XVI sums it up quoting Jesus from the Bread of Life discourse, "the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world." In these words the Lord reveals the true meaning of the gift of his life for all people. These words also reveal his deep compassion for every man and woman…. Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become 'bread that is broken' for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world" (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 78).



[1] "Welcoming The Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity", USCCB, 2000.See also Catechism of the Catholic Church #2241, Compendium of The Social Doctrine of The Church, #298, Saint John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 1999, #65.

[2] Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and Child Welfare System, Applied Research Center, November 2011, also Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate #62.