During the period of Jesus’ life, “tax collectors and sinners” formed those “others” who were shunned by proper people, considered unclean and generally despised.
Immigration is one of our most contentious contemporary social and political issues. Even in the USA–“a nation of immigrants”–there seems to be such a surprising increase in anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet our national history from the beginning is that of general distrust and dislike for immigrants, let alone those who are poor and needy, those who by circumstance do not possess acceptable identity documents.
These realities illustrate an underlying and deeper theme: that we, humanity in general, tend to distinguish and separate ourselves from others. Yet in reality all of these categories for “other” are human constructs.
God calls on us to break down these barriers, these human constructs. In this passage, Jesus expresses this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. That is, God calls on us to share God’s compassion and love with all people, rather than hoard it for ourselves.
On this day when we celebrate Independence Day in the USA, let us ponder and reflect on this wonderful gift of freedom, which in most cases began with an immigrant welcomed to our shores. Can we, can I, find ways to share this gift of freedom with more people—doing so with mercy, compassion, and love? After all, at some point in history, this same gift of freedom was generously and mercifully offered to each of our immigrant ancestors.
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. serves in campus ministry at Loyola University Chicago and is also minister of the Loyola Jesuit Community.