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Be mindful of those in need, wherever they’re from

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, March 8, 2007

During the Lenten season, the Church asks us to pay special attention to three areas of our lives, namely prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our Lenten resolutions traditionally include one practice from each of these three areas. By paying special attention to these dimensions of our spiritual life, we enable “the image of Jesus Christ to be brought to perfection within us” and prepare to celebrate with greater joy than ever Easter and the promises it holds out to faithful believers.

An issue which contains many dimensions for us and which appears frequently in the news has to do with our policies and practices with regard to immigration. The political forces in our country seem to be divided between attempting to develop a compromise which would be fair and just in our treatment of these people and provide a legal solution to the very large numbers of illegal immigrants and growing raids to capture and deport illegal immigrants while stepping up efforts to make our southern border more impenetrable.

I believe that when we think about almsgiving, our concern for the poor expresses itself not only in additional acts of service and sharing our financial resources with our brothers and sisters, but also enables us to give people who are poor a special place in our lives during the Lenten season.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article titled “Inmates Will Replace Migrants in Colorado Fields.” The story expressed the growing concern that farmers in the southeastern portion of Colorado have with regard to how their crops will be harvested this year because of restrictions on immigration and policies which are new and tough. The farmers are concerned that migrant workers will avoid Colorado and leave their fields of sweet corn, peppers and melons unharvested. A solution through a pilot program of the Corrections Department of the State of Colorado will provide supervised low-risk prisoners to harvest these crops. In return, the farmers will pay the state a fixed fee and offer the prisoners 60 cents a day!

Among the many arguments that are made when the issue of how to deal with illegal immigrants is discussed is the concern that these men and women are taking jobs away from American citizens. While many of these low-risk prisoners surely fall into that category, this solution does not seem at all to address concerns with regard to living wages for field workers.

Our readings for the Lenten Monday Mass included the codification of the ways in which the Israelites treated other people including strangers among them and the scene on the last day when people will be separated according to the way they treated strangers, as well as those who are sick, in prison, naked, thirsty and hungry. The point of the Gospel story is that how we focus our attention on the concerns that together contain the essence of the Beatitudes is critically important for us because when we deal with these brothers and sisters of ours we are truly dealing with Jesus Christ himself.

While political options in dealing with the issues of illegal immigration will continue to divide our country more and more deeply until some significant and long-standing solution is reached, Lent may be the perfect time for us to remember these people in our prayers and to give serious thought as Christians as we each face the necessity of determining where we stand personally on such a critical issue, one which affects many people who are not only poor, but fellow Christian believers as well.

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Father Richard Warner, director of Campus Ministry. He can be reached at rwarner@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.