The text of the homily that Father David Neuhaus SJ, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and Coordinator of the Pastoral for Migrants in Israel, preached on January 18, 2014 at Saint Anthony’s Church in Jaffa.

Father Zaher, parish priest of Jaffa,
Father Carlos, Vicar for the Migrants in the Jaffa parish,
Father Apolinary, responsible for the Hebrew speaking community in Jaffa,
Father Tojy, Indian chaplain,
Father Medhin, Ge’ez rite chaplain,
Father Cristian, Rumanian chaplain,
Father Ric, responsible for Divine Mercy Chapel,
Father James, responsible for Saint Lorenzo Ruiz,
Father Arnie from the Haifa Filipino community,
Father Dharma, from the Indian chaplaincy,
Sister Clarice, coordinator of the Sri Lankan community,
Sister Camelia from the Lebanese community,
The Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres,
All those working in the migrant pastoral,
Brothers and Sisters,

We come together today to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for three main reasons:

- We come to celebrate:

Look around you! Look at the brothers and sisters the Lord has given us, in their diversity of origin and culture, language and color – Filipinos, Indians, Eritreans and Ethiopians, Sri Lankans, Rumanians, Nigerians, Latin Americans, Poles, Russians, Ghanaians, Lebanese, Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians and many others! We want to celebrate today, recognizing the contribution of each one to our Church and to this Land.

We want also to witness to this celebration as a joyful celebration. In our world outside, celebration is not usually the reaction to the arrival of migrants. They are often met with suspicion and hostility.

Let us listen to the words of Pope Francis, written for this day:

“We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community. Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery: a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland and every homeland is a foreign country” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014).

- We come to pray:

By our prayers today we want to reach out and support one another and all our brother and sister migrants who are struggling in a world of violence and exploitation, suspicion and vilification. Some of us are born here, some of us have come from afar looking for work and a better life and some have fled here, fearing for their lives. Our prayer rises up as one to our heavenly Father who sent His son into our world to seek us out and bring us back to Him. Jesus, in his earthly life came to dwell among us. He too had to flee violence and take refuge in Egypt. He too had to eat bread by the sweat of his brow. In our prayer, we unite ourselves to him, praying for the Church that is called to serve the weakest, the poorest and the most deprived. In them, each disciple of Christ finds the Christ who came to be with them. Let us pray for ourselves that we can open ourselves to those less fortunate than ourselves and minister to them. We come to pray too for this country, that the Lord might soften the hearts of leaders here and everywhere to respect the humanity of the migrant and refugee and make place for them at the table.

Let us listen again to Pope Francis:

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this “conversion of attitudes” and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014).

- We come to proclaim our faith:

Our faith is not only a faith that proclaims the reign of God in heaven, it is also a faith in the Kingdom of God that is already among us. We, here present, commit ourselves to live in relations of love, mutual acceptance and solidarity so that by our very being in the world we proclaim loud and clear that Christ has come and established his reign among us:

Let us hear again the words of Pope Francis:

“I think of how even the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced initial rejection: Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew what it meant to leave their own country and become migrants: threatened by Herod’s lust for power, they were forced to take flight and seek refuge in Egypt (cf. Matthew 2:13-14). But the maternal heart of Mary and the compassionate heart of Joseph, the Protector of the Holy Family, never doubted that God would always be with them. Through their intercession, may that same firm certainty dwell in the heart of every migrant and refugee” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014).