We live in a society that no longer connects the dots. The focus is placed upon “me” and what I want. There is little regard for the effect this will have upon others. It is sad to see that now our government reflects this societal attitude. This past Friday’s Journal Sentinel contained an article, “Immigrant patient moved to detention.” It is the story of a woman from El Salvador who is critically ill, waiting for emergency surgery for a brain tumor. She was forcibly moved from a Texas hospital to a detention center by federal agents, where she has been held since November 2015. Her legal and medical teams are working diligently to get the medical treatment she needs. I wonder if those who bound her hand and foot and removed her from the hospital were Christians. I wonder if they go to church every Sunday and give praise to the God above. I wonder if the driver was a Catholic who is a leader in his/her parish. She is a mother of two young children. If this is all true, then they are the clearest examples of people who don’t connect the dots.
Did not Jesus say, “I was ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited (Matthew 25:36)?” What are we becoming as an American society? The very people Jesus speaks about in the Last Judgment Parable are the objects of our wrath. Who are we becoming? We are Americans and thus we share in the guilt of what is happening to this El Salvadoran woman. Go to El Salvador and you are no longer Dennis or Larry or Jane or Elizabeth but you are the American who did this to her. In their eyes this is how we are viewed. Our individual identity is lost in the action of our government. When we invaded Panama to capture Noriega, I was a priest working in our sister parish in the Dominican Republic. When Dominican anger was splashed upon our parish sign, I was no longer Fr. Dennis but the ugly American who invades Latin American countries. I will never forget the black letters written on our parish sign—“Yankee, Go Home!”
The action of federal agents forcing this ill woman from the hospital is God calling us, as Americans, to a conversion. It is the same call we hear in the gospel today, Matthew 6: 24-34. Jesus is asking us to consider how we look at life. When it is all about “me” and my life—what I am going to eat, drink, wear, and are you looking at “me” favorably, I am blind. I cannot see what is happening to my sisters and brothers but I am also not free. Jesus is asking us to break the cycle of selfishness, because it is the root of the cycle of violence. We break this cycle when we serve God and only God. We cannot do a fifty/fifty approach because God is looking for a 100% commitment on our part.
When we give 100% of who we are to the Lord, it is then we are free. When we think of surrendering to God, we always think that it is giving up our freedom. In reality what we are doing is freeing ourselves from all that keeps us unfree. It is in the freedom of God we come to comprehend that God will never forsake us. Even if a mother forgets her child, God will never forget us. The Salvadoran woman the federal agents took into custody knows far better than them that God will never forget her. When I was in the Dominican Republic a young, rich man from Fond du Lac spent some time working in the parish. One day he asked me, “Why aren’t these people angry with God. They have nothing.” I replied, “God is all that they have.” In this reality we are the stewards of God’s mysteries and servants of Christ.
One of the characters in the film “Oh, God!” asks God why he permits starvation and all the many forms of injustice. God answers, “I don’t permit it. You do.” We are called to alleviate the pain, the suffering and the injustice that imprison our sisters and brothers. It’s not just God’s job.
Sincerely yours in Christ,