Monday, September 7, 2015

A Place at the Table

"Give Me Your Tired and Your Poor"

I was very moved yesterday with the images coming out of Germany as citizens of that country stood at their border with bottles of water and baskets of fruit welcoming throngs of incoming immigrants, arms outstretched to embrace the homeless and penniless who had left behind their livelihoods to escape the terrors of oppression in their homeland. 

These images warmed my heart and they also made my heart sad as I thought of my own native land as so many of my fellow American citizens want to round up all the immigrants in this country, put them on buses and send them back to where they came from and to build fortressed walls at our border to keep foreigners out.

This week I am away from our Southern California Desert Retreat House, visiting family in Washington, DC. As I sit here in the nation's capitol on this Labor Day holiday I can hear the sounds of military helicopters and marching bands in the distance preparing for a big parade. The parade will likely pass by the great monuments of our history and heritage, the monuments honoring Washington, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. -  and I can't help wondering if over the past few centuries we may have seriously lost sight of that history and heritage remembered today. 

On this national holiday I wonder if far too many of us may have forgotten about what this nation supposedly stands for - a society that celebrates "liberty and justice for ALL," a land where there is a place for everybody at the table of life.

As I hear the sounds of the big parade in the distance I think about those words engraved  into the base of the Statue of Liberty - Lady Liberty standing at the border, holding high the torch of liberty, greeting the hordes of immigrants as they arrive at the New York Harbor, welcoming all who would pass by- people from all parts of the world, rich and poor, penniless and homeless,  those coming here to make a better life, others fleeing from the oppression and terror of their homeland:

Give me your tired and your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.  

Lots of people today say they want to return to "good old-fashioned" American values. So do I. 

I want to live in a land in which there is a place set at the table for everyone who comes into the house of my country - no one left outside, no one ever pushed away, no walls at the border.  I also want to return to those good old-fashioned American values and live in a land where we all stand at our borders with bottles of water and baskets of fruit embracing all who knock at the door.

Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador who was martyred by the forces of the elite because he promoted the cause of the tired and the poor in his own native land once said:

You cannot reap what you have not sown.
How are we going to reap
If we only sow hate?

On this national holiday in the United States of America, I reflect upon the seeds that are now being sown in this culture. If we only sow hate we cannot possibly expect to reap the sweet fruits of love.

Happy Labor Day!

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