Memorial of St. Justin Martyr
(II Peter 3:12-15a.17-18; Mark 12:13-17)
If Jesus were to enter the city of Phoenix, Arizona, a zealous Christian would probably approach him with a question similar to the Pharisee’s in today’s gospel. Of course, the questioner would not inquire about taxes; rather, he would touch on the divisive issue of immigration. He would want to know Jesus’ thoughts on the recently passed immigration law that puts illegal immigrants ever on alert.
Many, including the bishops of the Catholic Church, think that most undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. in dire need of work. They defend the newcomers as decent people who contribute significantly to American society. Not all church-goers are in agreement, however, Opposing illegal immigration, some find the wholesale disregard for American law intolerable and point out that many people would like to emigrate to the United States but patiently wait their turn in their native places. Now what would Jesus say?
From his answer to the Pharisee in today’s gospel, we might postulate that Jesus would sidestep the brunt of the question. He is not so interested in resolving disputes among peoples as he is in drawing different sides to God his Father. We might imagine him asking for an apple and then inquiring who produced the fruit. “The grower,” some would answer; “with the assistance of immigrant farm labor,” other would chime in. But Jesus would remind everyone that God is the source of all good things, and we must give God His due. So where does this put us in regard to illegal immigration? We have to figure that out now after realizing that the issue is not just about the right to work or the need to obey laws. It is first and foremost about how to view the undocumented with God’s love in our hearts.