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Bishop Silva's Red Mass Homily

January 18, 2018

He was an immigrant.  He took a months-long and dangerous voyage to reach a place he had only heard about, but that was very different from his place of birth.  He had to learn not one, but two different languages.  At one point, he lived under a tree, because there was no house for him.  We know this immigrant as Father Damien, and revere him as a saint.  He came not so much to seek a better life for himself, but to share the riches of his faith in Jesus Christ with a nation that had only recently heard of him.  And though he sometimes presented a challenge to the authorities, both in the Church and in the government, he is best known for recognizing Christ in those who had little to eat, in those who thirsted for the family love from which they had been yanked, in those who were sick with a disease that caused panic in the populace, and in those who were imprisoned on that isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai.  We thank God that this immigrant had the courage to come to these shores, and we are all the better for his having been here. 

She was twice an immigrant.  From Germany her family immigrated to the United States; then she, as an adult, emigrated from the United States to the Kingdom of Hawaii.  She came not for a better life for herself but to better the lives of those in whom she also saw Christ himself as they suffered.  She gave food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, cared for the sick and the imprisoned, and thus brought beauty, healing, and freedom through her devotion and love.  Mother Marianne Cope was this immigrant who enriched our lands with her faith and love. 

Of course not all immigrants come with the noble motives of Father Damien and Mother Marianne.  Some come to save their lives from tyrannical governments or terrorists.  Some come because they know that in this land they can find the food and drink, the health and freedom that they simply could not find in their own countries.  Some come, knowing that they will engage in back-breaking labor, but willing to do so because they want their children and their children’s children to thrive.  They come because they know that here lives a people who value the principles of this Gospel, who know the meaning of compassion in reaching out to those in need.  Here they know they can breathe free. 

But not all who come here find such a welcome.  And so we need to remind ourselves that our own salvation depends upon our care for the stranger and the alien, and upon our reaching out to those who are most in need.  We come to worship the God who has reached out to us in love, who feeds us, who heals us, and who gives us true freedom.  We come to thank him for who he is, so that we might be more and more like him.  And we come to dedicate ourselves to the journey toward that place he has prepared for us from the foundation of the world.