That They May Be One: Immigration and Christian Unity

Unity concept, C Jones /

Unity concept, C Jones /

As we approach Holy Week, I’ve been re-reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Last Supper, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. In John 17, as Jesus prays for his disciples and their successors in the hours before he is arrested, he prays for our unity as his church:

…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21, 23)

Central to our mission as Christ’s followers is to share with the world this good news: that the Father sent the Son because he so loved the world — but the best observable evidence of that Gospel reality, a unified Church, seems a distant, utopian dream. Just within the United States — this small sliver of the global church — we are divided by denomination, by race, by political ideology, and by the competitive human instinct that leads even those congregations who resemble one another doctrinally, ethnically, and politically to jockey over the same individuals in order to fill their sanctuaries (or auditoriums) and offering plates. Perhaps the situation is not quite so stark: I know that many — probably most — believers share the desire for unity. It just seems at times that we have so far to go, and might be drifting in the wrong direction.

Immigration and Resurrection

#Fast4Families bus tour group, via @Fast4Famliies on Twitter

I was traveling to Culpeper, Va., on the #Fast4Families bus tour to speak to a group of workers assembled at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. As we looked out the window we were struck that every 50 feet there stood a plaque marking the place where another significant battle took place in the Civil War.

As we sat down in the church, I didn’t know what I was going to say to all-immigrant group. My message up to that point had focused on mobilizing non-immigrants to join the movement. What could I say to this immigrant gathering?

I prayed. I asked God, “What do you want to speak to this group through me?’ And the dots started to connect.

Immigration Advocacy Update: Nearing Two Million Deportations

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Some advocacy groups focus on Congressional action. Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

With Easter recess around the corner, immigration supporters are in full force with their advocacy plans. Efforts have taken a two-tier approach: some groups focus on Congressional action for meaningful and broad reform this year, while others are focusing on administration fixes to reduce deportations.

Recently, pressure has mounted on the Obama Administration, as groups attempt to stop the unjust deportations of non-criminal immigrants who have roots in the U.S. The Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon reach its 2 millionth deportation under the Obama Administration. The rising volume of deportations has caused uproar amongst the immigrants’ rights community, as advocates highlight the moral crisis in communities with families facing separation from loved ones. Advocates are urging the president to use his executive powers to ease unjust deportations that cause needless pain and suffering.

WATCH: Bishops Celebrate Mass on the Border, Pray for Immigration Reform

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' will hold a border mass in Nogales, Ariz., at noon eastern time.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, from the Archdiocese of Boston, and seven other bishops will gather at the border calling attention to the humanitarian issues that persist and calling on Congress to pass humane and commonsense immigration reform.

The event comes amid increased support for immigration reform in the Christian community. Recently, Catholics and evangelicals joined together to send an open letter to Congress and had key joint hill meetings. Urging reform that’s rooted in biblical principles, the national leaders met with the offices of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

The event will be live streamed below.

#Fast4Families -- Week 5

The Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C., on April 9. Fast for Families’ leader, Eliseo Medina was arrested in Miami on March 21 and released later that night. Medina was arrested at Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart’s Doral office while delivering a letter on immigration reform with constituents and immigrant rights advocates.

Continuing to advocate for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters pressed on into week five and made stops in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Fasters met with the staff members of Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in Lansing, Mich., to press for support.

“America has a proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, but our current immigration system is clearly broken ...” Rogers said in a statement. “I am ready to start small and work together to create meaningful bipartisan legislation, piece by piece.”

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Immigration reform rally in California, Richard Thornton /

Immigration reform rally in California, Richard Thornton /

As we quickly approach Holy Week in the Christian calendar, our attention turns increasingly to the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. According to the Gospel accounts, one of the last phrases that Jesus spoke while suffering on the cross is a recitation of the opening line of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Even Jesus, whom Christians hold to be the Son of God, experienced feeling forsaken by his Heavenly Father. And the words of the Psalmist go further, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

As I reflect on the plight of the undocumented immigrant in the United States today, I wonder if the words of the Psalmist, echoed by Jesus on the cross, don’t hit a little too close to home.