Out of the Darkness

Christmas lights are one of the most universally enjoyed traditions of the Christmas season.  Outdoor lights decorate our homes, trees and fences.  Through windows we see Christmas tree lights twinkling, candles burning and fireplaces glowing. Over the coming days, we will note the absence of these lights as our Christmas celebration comes to an end.  Our neighborhoods will seem darker and  colder.

Pope Francis has been emphasizing how many in our contemporary society do not like even thinking of a cold dark night, much less experiencing it.   But for some of our neighbors, the experience of darkness is just as real as it is figurative as they experience the uncertainty of living as immigrants, migrants and refugees, practically invisible to the rest of the world.

To raise awareness of the injustice of so many people living in the shadows, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated this week as National Migration Week.  As Pope Francis reminds us, ours is “a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all” (Evangelii Gaudium, 210). So, in this week, it is with a mother’s love that the Church addresses the needs of all those who live with a fear of being “found out.”  We want to embrace, as brothers and sisters, our neighbors whose fear isolates them within our communities.

Here in the Washington metropolitan area, we live with migrants who come here alone as adults and as families with children.  Some are undocumented refugees and others are victims of human trafficking.  As Christians, we are tasked with building community through the practice of solidarity.  This Christian virtue is at the center of practical efforts to achieve human communion, especially when that community is nurtured by grace.  The principle of solidarity recognizes that each person, as a member of society, is interconnected with the destiny of society itself and, from the perspective of the Gospel, is also bound up with the salvation of all women and men.

Solidarity is rooted in the unity of the human family.  Elevated to a more intense level through the outpouring of the divine life in baptism, solidarity is articulated in works of generosity, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Our concern for migrants, victims of human trafficking and refugees is first and foremost a recognition that we are all one human family, which prompts the concern for the protection of the human dignity and freedom of each of our brothers and sisters hiding in darkness.  While it is important to be agents of change and encourage the enactment of civil laws and protections, in this season of Christmas, we are reminded that what the Church has to offer is the truth that Jesus is the ultimate answer.

In Christ, we find our dignity and the answer to our longing for true freedom and peace. As a Church, it is in Christ that we also understand our obligation as a human community.  By meeting practical human problems head on, and attempting to eliminate intolerable situations that breed injustice and division while trapping people in a dark world, we are capable of building human solidarity.

The gift we receive in the Christmas season is the promise of the kingdom of God, which in its fullness will only come to light in the realm of glory.  At the same time, we are charged to make every effort to manifest—through works of truth, kindness, justice and love—the coming of that kingdom in our world.  We have the power to bring forth the kingdom of God in this work.

We have a long way to go in tackling the challenge of human trafficking, illegal immigration and refugee assistance, but there are practical, concrete steps that we can take here and now to manifest more fully the kingdom of God in our world.  To learn more and consider how you can be involved, visit www.JusticeforImmigrants.org, www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/ and www.catholiccharitiesdc.org.