Few feasts supersede the celebration of the Sunday in ordinary time.  Sunday is always a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and his overcoming of the power of darkness and the evil one.  The Nativity of St. John the Baptist points to prophetic service and witness.  When we were baptized, we were marked to be priest, prophet, and servant leader.  As I mentioned in any number of homilies I’ve shared with our community, the vocation of the priesthood of the laity is to offer prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters in need by uniting ourselves with the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ.  Our servant leadership comes with humbly following Jesus’s example of serving the poor, the destitute, the widow, the stranger and the powerless in society.

Taking care of children who have been orphaned by whatever process that orphaning took place, be it by natural death of parents, by abandonment of parents [which is what some families do when they can no longer afford to care for their children which they bore] occurs in such countries as Bolivia where a mother will take her four or five-year-old child on a bus trip, excuses herself to her child to use the facilities leaving the child on the bus, but never returns to claim her child.  Likewise, the unnatural orphaning of children through their separation from their parents at our borders and ports of entry in order to satisfy a yet to be announced purpose such as keeping gangs out of this country is both sinful and evil.  The intentions of our elected political leaders who imagine ways to keep such refugees through separation of families from their children, in my opinion, is heartless.

Such ways of treating those who seek refuge from oppression in their country of origin and then separating them from their children because they are judged to be criminals charged with a misdemeanor for crossing a border for refuge seems to me to be a callous act.  It is a sadistic policy wrapped with a patina of biblical references, taken out of context, to represent justifications for political purposes. These are the practices today that a John the Baptist might speak against when we call him a prophet.

Biblical prophets do not read Tarot Cards, crystal balls, tea leaves or the entrails of animals to predict future events; their role is to speak up against injustice both in season and out of season.  Through their reading of the signs of the times, they are willing to stand up against tyranny pointing to an impending destruction that portends to point to an impending fascism.  Such a place would maintain a posture where the rule of law and service of the people gets replaced by leaders who deflect and attribute to their political challengers the very policies that they have put in place to oppress the orphan and alien.

Our political leaders would not have to deal with building a wall to exclude the massive migrations of families from Central America if the resources of the United States were used to help these countries create safe environments for their citizens who are being forced out of fear to make the treacherous journey north.  A border wall south of our country would not be necessary if there were fairness and a willingness to step away from partisan politics to help refugees including children.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus Christ. He said he must diminish and allow Jesus to grow.  We need to use our baptismal call to speak up against injustice as John the Baptist did. Rest assured that taking a position to defend the newly orphaned children by our governmental policies will put some of us at odds with friends, colleagues, neighbors, and within households, fathers, mothers, and children. Again, in my opinion, I believe this is what it means to be prophetic today and enter true dialogue.  If my reflection on this feast and it’s implication for today’s circumstances causes you to see things differently or disagree perhaps we might find common ground where dialogue occurs and we work through our differences rather than skirt around them.

May the Lord’s peace always abide in you,

Richard Mucowski

Friar Richard Mucowski OFM is the pastor of Assumption Parish in Wood Ridge, New Jersey.

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