The Ur-Leaving

Today’s readings:

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
Genesis 12:1b

At the Stations of the Cross on Friday night we were meditating on the woes of Migrants, leaving their families and homelands and seeking a better life. One is tempted to hear “in America” but that’s not always the case: for America is not the Shining Star she once was and others have also eclipsed her. Migrants go to Saudi Arabia, to South Africa, to the UAE, to Germany, to England. It’s not, as we tell ourselves here, a case of “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free” but rather, let’s be honest, we Moderns have crafted a picture of financial success as the highest value and people can find that success in other ways in other places. Sometimes, though, a Migrant is not out to “make a better life” for themselves. Some migrants (most?) in these times are fleeing a crappy place in the “third world” that is crappy exactly because the first world has made it that way. We’ve set up a gov’t that provides us with cheap oil, or cheap produce.

“We”, here, does not mean America, but pretty much anyone who lives in a nation that does not produce the goods it consumes. And migrants tend to be the people most hurt by our Consumption. That’s why they come here – because all their stuff ended up here, so they might as well come here too.

Abram’s journey is an interesting one: for God called him out of the First World of his day, into the Fertile Crescent. What God didn’t tell Abram, was that every Army in the world – until the invention of airplanes – would need to march through that land for ever to get to anyplace that was cool. And, of course, any time an Army Marches Through, they can’t help but rape and pillage. God set Israel up: tiny, unloved, and easy to march through on your way to someplace else.

I will make a great nation of you. God has got a seriously warped sense of humor – or else he’s trying to teach us something. “Us” here is the Church, called “Israel of God” and the “New Israel” by the Apostles. We are the Children of Abraham – and that should not be a good thing, really, in the eyes of the world. But we do our darnedest to make it out to be good, we want to be successful.

St Paul had to tell even his own disciple, St Timothy, “bear your share of hardship for the gospel”. Whatever it is, we don’t want it to be hard.

Abram, leaving the first world of his day, and wandering into the hinterlands is a sign for us. This sign was repeated when the Israelites left the first world of their day (Egypt) and wandered into the hinterlands. This sign was repeated again when the Jews left their captivity in the first world of their day and, again, wandered into the hinterlands. This is the pattern set up for the Church but her application has to be different – for the Church is sent into all the world, the Hinterlands, and the Innerlands, the Thitherlands and the Interlands.

The Church has no choice but to be everywhere. That’s why today’s Gospel is so important. In fact, it’s so important that those who carry the Gospel cannot be trapped in the first world: we cannot be successful in the eyes of the world because that success comes at the price of the lives of others.

What is today’s Gospel? That if we bear our cross, the Transfiguration is not far away. But if we drop our cross onto the backs of others – to make our lives easier. well. In the Tenth Station on Friday, “Jesus is stripped of his garments”, the following was offered:

Tenth Station

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments Violation of Human Rights and Human Trafficking

“After the crucifixion, his clothes were distributed by lot and he sat there covering himself.”Matthew 27:35-36 

The body of many immigrant, men, women and children, are often business objects to be sold and trafficked by criminal groups (smugglers) who operate with impunity in the transit countries of immigrants. Many suffer physical and sexual abuse, are forced into prostitution and unworthy work. They are stripped of their rights, their belongings, and even their lives. Like Jesus, boys and girls are battered reflections of our evil world. 

PrayerJesus, deliver us from the temptations of pornography and immorality. Clean our anxious hearts from earthly pleasures. Stop the desire for profit and goods made at any price and give us a decent heart like yours. Amen.

I have lately been wondering lately if those “earthly pleasures” must be seen to include cheap veggies available year round at SafeWay, Ingles, or ShopRite. What are we doing to the bodies of our migrant brothers and sisters when we sell them into slavery to farmers? What about the clothes we wear, our electronics. What if the cars we drive are moved by oil that is delivered at the cost of Native lives and freedom? What if our whole method of consumption comes at the cost of our damnation? What if our greed for consumption comes at the cost of human icons of God? What if our very way of moving in the world comes at the self-sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Ironically, in turn, setting up temptations for them to come here and live off the same unjust system? What if we gain the world and yet give up our souls?

How can we say we’ve left our city to follow God, if, instead of being Transfigured into his likeness, we are destroying his likeness in ourselves and others?

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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