Last week, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston offered an excellent response to the refugee crisis:
This Year of Mercy is an invitation to live our faith more fully by seeking ways to reflect God’s love and mercy in the way that we treat each other. In the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us that the true neighbor is the one who shows mercy. In the case of the Samaritan, it was not just a matter of reacting with compassion in the face of a suffering human being, it also required him to overcome any personal prejudice or animosity that he would have felt towards the religion and ethnicity of the wounded man. The Samaritans felt rejected and despised by the people of the chosen race, and often reacted accordingly, as when they refused Jesus and the Apostles hospitality. There was a Cold War between the Samaritans and the Israelites, and so the Samaritan’s act of kindness was at the same time an act of forgiveness, an act of renouncing prejudice and group hatred. Jesus ends the parable by saying: “Go and do likewise.”
As we mull over the debate about refugees, let us remember the doors that were closed in the face of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. We must ask our leaders to be vigilant and protect our citizens, but at the same time we cannot turn our back on so many innocent people who are hungry, homeless, and without a country. I do not believe it is a matter of choosing one course over the other, we can be both vigilant and compassionate. America is truly great when we do not succumb to fear and prejudice, but rather when we walk boldly in the path of the Good Samaritan.