Arizona, with its stunning sunsets and sunrises, its breath-taking places like Grand Canyon and Sedona, its saguaros and ocotillos and so much more, is an immensely beautiful state. Is it any wonder that we have visitors and new residents coming from all over the United States and even the rest of the world?
With all its natural wonders and geographic diversity, one need not go far to experience dramatic changes in scenery, hue and climate. From the San Francisco Peaks to the Sonoran Desert, and all points in between, Arizona has been richly blessed by our Creator.
The beauty and duty of cultural diversity
Our state is also beautiful because of the rich cultural diversity of the people who live here, a diversity that has continued to grow over the years, and is seen in the fact that, in our diocese alone, Mass is celebrated in twelve languages each Sunday!
For some, Arizona is a good place to retire. For many others, however, Arizona is a place of opportunity to find work and support a family. Such is the case with the many migrants and refugees who have found a home among us. In fact, it would be difficult to find a parish anywhere in our state that is not touched and blessed in some way by migrants and refugees.
Jesus calls us, His followers, to be instruments of His love, to hand on to others the mercy and compassion that He has showered upon us, regardless of their faith, culture, age, or immigration status. We are all God’s children and all redeemed by His Precious Blood.
Sometimes it may not be popular to fulfill our duty of welcoming others. But there can be no doubt of what Jesus asks us to do, “[I was] a stranger and you welcomed me … whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:35, 40).
Grave problems faced by migrants and refugees
It is because of the love of Christ that the Catholic Church is especially concerned with government policies that destroy family unity. There are countless migrant families in the Diocese of Phoenix who have one spouse who is lawfully present in our country and one who is not; there are other families with some children lawfully here and others that are not. These spouses and their children are constantly threatened with the break-up of their families because of immigration policies that are inadequate for our times.
The grave problem with present immigration policies is seen, for example, in their harmful impact on those children who were brought to this country at a very young age and have lived almost their entire lives here. Forcing them to return to a country they may no longer remember, or to speak a language they may no longer know does not seem to be an appropriate solution.
For similar but somewhat different reasons, the Catholic Church also cares deeply about the humanitarian needs of refugees. Arizona increasingly is becoming the home to thousands of them who have escaped dangerous, war-torn countries. These people come from many parts of the world and often with little more than a suitcase in their hand. They come in search of a safe home for their families.
In them we see the face of Christ
The suffering of these vulnerable populations cannot help but move our hearts and prompt us to respond. Because of who we are in Christ, we not only pray for them, but are also called to respect their human dignity and to alleviate their suffering.
I am deeply grateful for the welcome on our behalf that is carried out by our Catholic Charities Community Services. In fact, it is one of a few nonprofit organizations in Maricopa County that provides excellent low-cost legal services to migrants in addition to various social services. Catholic Charities also has an outstanding Refugee Resettlement Program that provides a welcoming and supportive network to their clients. If you are not already familiar with these programs, I would encourage you to learn more about them, along with opportunities that are available to assist them in providing help. More information can be found at catholiccharitiesaz.org.
As we enter more fully into the Advent and Christmas season, I encourage all of us to pause and remember the families who, not unlike the Holy Family, felt compelled to leave their homeland in search of safety and a fresh start. Let us remember the plight of these families less fortunate than our own and ask ourselves what we can do to help the least of our sisters and brothers.