Column: God teaches us how to welcome the stranger

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

The science fiction blockbuster movies that periodically appear during the summer months often feature aliens from outer space intent on enslaving the human race or, even worse, simply destroying it.

This plot device reflects an attitude common in our society. For some, the word “foreigner” is synonymous with “enemy.” They look upon the outsider with suspicion.

Such an attitude is not unique to our society. It has occurred throughout history. It was common at the time when the Book of Isaiah (a portion of which we will hear as Sunday’s first reading) was written, most probably after the return from Exile and the rebuilding of the Temple in 515 B.C.

In our reading — Is 56:1, 6-7 — God welcomes foreign- ers to the community of the faithful: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants — all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold
to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.”

As part of God’s people, they can offer sacrifice in the temple of Jerusalem: “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” These words would have presented quite a challenge to the thinking of the day. They place the foreigners on the same level as the people of Israel. “Mi casa es su casa.”

If God welcomes the stranger in this manner, how can we do otherwise? “Observe what is right, do what is just.” This passage from Isaiah suggests the approach that we should take in some significant issues that confront us. The current influx of children from Central America immediately comes to mind.

God’s openness to the foreigner may not dictate specific policy concerning immigration or border security, but it clearly defines the attitude of heart that we should have in shaping that policy. It clearly argues against a defensive and isolationist attitude.

We should remember that this prophecy of Isaiah takes place in the context of a promise: “For my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” It is a prophecy still awaiting fulfillment.

And we can play a part in that. Certainly, God’s justice will be revealed in our actions, if only we heed the prophecy and are guided by it.

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