This weekend, I had the privilege of accompanying a group of Austin Seminary students to McAllen, TX, where they would become more intimately acquainted with the human impact of our broken immigration system. Led by one of their classmates and a local leader in the Presbyterian Church (USA), they listened to the wisdom of women like Sr. Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities and the Angry Tías and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley. They volunteered at a local relief center for those recently released from detention. And they held a public prayer service on the US American side of the International Bridge, where they lamented the injustices done against asylees in our name and committed themselves to telling the stories of the borderlands, as they encountered them, upon their return to Austin. In the wake of the death of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, they grieved her loss.
As I sit with today’s Gospel, I am struck by the ways in which these students are beginning to live into the Good News of right relationship that John the Baptist proclaims to those who seek it out. Like the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers of Luke’s Gospel, I hear them asking, “What should we do?” I hear them asking this question of God, of themselves, of faith leaders like Sr. Norma, of their fellow students. I see them discerning a way forward that honors the experiences of this weekend, sharing their belongings with those who have little, like the crowds, and taking stock of how they might use their power as ministers in formation for good, to refrain from abusing it, as John the Baptist exhorts the soldiers in the passage to do.
Tonight, I feel privileged to walk with them as they begin to grapple with what it means for them to be in right relationship with migrants and asylees, to be faithful ministers of the Gospel. If you feel similarly called, click here to support the urgent and much-needed work of Catholic Charities. If you would like to engage in a similar public witness, click here to download an adaptation of the prayer service the students and their community partners designed and shared at the International Bridge.