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Archive for November 26th, 2018


Matthew 2:13-15Flight

Monday, November 26, 2018

Each year my students and I study the topic of immigration and one of the questions I ask – in Spanish, of course, since theirs is a Spanish class – is what year their families immigrated to the U.S.  Each time I ask there is a student or two whose family has an ancestor from a North American indigenous tribe.  Each year there are first generation Americans, and sometimes there are even students whose families have recently arrived in the U.S.  We discuss who and what it means to be “American” and we open our horizon to understand that anyone born in the Americas is actually AmericanThis is always something the girls have to chew on for a bit.  We remind ourselves that in Spanish there is an adjective that describes someone from the U.S.  . . . estadounidenseThis causes some frowns along with knowing nods.

As we wrap up this annual discussion, I ask the girls to return the next day with the name of a famous refugee or immigrant without whom the course of human history would be less light and more dark.  They like this task.  When they return to class we hear the typical names and some students even go back to ancient narratives to name the Hebrews and their struggles in foreign lands; but they rarely name the Holy Family.  When I refer to the “angel’s warning to Joseph” that we read in today’s Noontime, students think I refer to the dream in which Gabriel appears to encourage Joseph to take Mary as a wife even though she is with child.  I always think it sad that we somehow stop the Christmas story before we arrive at a most important point . . . Jesus and his family flee persecution and move to another land where they speak another language, learn about new customs, and earn and spend different currency.  This is such a good lesson for a language classroom, particularly in today’s climate.

This discussion often engenders a good conversation about borders, frontiers, empire, colonization, passports and identity documents.  We talk about how St. Paul made his famous evangelization journeys without having to apply for visas or travel papers or check in at border crossings.  We also discuss the influence of families in the colony of Costa Rica and speculate about how the presence – or absence – of women and children in the formative stages of nation building shapes and forms a national psyche.   We discuss human conduct, human tribalism and the treatment of those within and outside of our own tribe.  These discussions are always rewarding for the students and for me.  I never fail to learn something new.

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night . . .

I am reminded of my own family history of Europeans who rose to depart from familiar places to arrive at foreign shores in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  My mother was a first-generation American while my dad’s family was here to fight in the Revolutionary War.  My mother’s family taught their offspring the value of personal freedom, they all registered and voted, and they remembered their roots in a South Philadelphia polyglot neighborhood where English was spoken with many heavy, foreign accents.  My father’s family was a mixture of old world lineage with newcomer spunk.  Both families raised feisty, independent, community building youngsters who cared about family, church and home.  They knew the heartache of uprooting and leavings.  They all left loved ones behind knowing that they would never embrace or kiss again.  They understood the importance of the cover of darkness and the promise of daylight at the end of an arduous journey.

Rise, take the child and his mother, flee . . .

We live in a world of 7 billion people who are on the move yet long for stability.  Many of us encounter hostility and violence even as we look for security and dependability.  We are all God’s people yet some of us want clear boundaries that close us into protective enclaves while others of us look to open up locked doors to let in fresh air.  But the commonality we hold – whether we want to admit this or not – is this . . . in God’s kingdom we are all refugees arriving at God’s open gate in various states of disarray and need.  In God’s kingdom we have all taken flight to jostle into a newness that we hope for yet dread.  In God’s kingdom we are sisters and brothers trailing along dragging the suitcases we will not be needing.  In God’s kingdom . . . we have all taken flight together . . . to arrive at the newness of God’s sure promise.


A re-post from October 24, 2011.

Image from: http://www.joyfulheart.com/christmas/christmas_artwork.htm

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