The sight of migrating birds across the sky is a spectacular sight. How many of us have looked up in awe and fixed our gaze on the breath-taking v-formation as they made their way in a seemingly effortless manner across the vast open sky. Long after the birds are out of sight, what remains in our memory is a beautiful vision.However behind that beautiful vision also lies a bleak picture – the harsh reality of life and death – where only the strong will survive and the weak will perish.
Similarly, when individuals make the decision to migrate to another country in search of a better life, it is with the belief that the ‘grass is greener on the other side’. They have visions of a ‘land filled with milk and honey’. They begin to dream of a life filled with happiness, success and wealth. But it’s only a matter of time before their dreams are shattered – they find themselves cheated out of their wages, they find themselves at the hands of unscrupulous employers, they find themselves working exhausting hours with little rest, they find themselves living in overcrowded and deplorable conditions … but it is a fate that they soon learn to accept, because they are left with no other choice and because they need to send home what little money they earn as their families depend on it.
They then make the heart-wrenching decision of keeping their families and loved ones in the dark about their real situation. They don’t want the folks back home to worry about them. They want their loved ones to continue believing that the grass is indeed greener on the other side.
If you’ve ever been someplace where you don’t know anyone else, you know how tough it can be. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can give way to feelings of despair and hopelessness. The simple act of being welcomed by another human being, of finding a single friendly face in the middle of a sea of faces you don’t know can be a lifeline.
Migrants – whether legal or undocumented – have assimilated themselves into our local society. We come across them on a daily basis – restaurant workers, maids, factory workers, farm hands etc. We also see them in our parishes. Their presence offers the local parishes a great window of opportunity to extend hospitality and kindness that they probably do not experience in their workplace. We also realise that the demographics of our parishes are changing and we need to seek ways to respond to these new realities – ways in which the migrants will feel welcomed and experience the warmth of God’s love through us. Throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, great emphasis is placed on God’s presence among his immigrant people and today we have a great opportunity to make the words of Jesus reality…
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).