~ by Bishop Kicanas for the National Catholic Reporter
Christ always surprises. He revels in the unexpected. One never knows where you might find him. Christ said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” I marvel at the unanticipated epiphanies of Christ I have experienced along the southern border of the United States.
I met Christ in a small chapel in Altar, Sonora, Mexico, some years ago. I saw young, frightened men, mostly wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe or clutching rosary beads. Like Christ kneeling in the garden, they sought the help of God, anxious and desperate, imagining what was ahead of them in their journey north. They sought to harm no one. The only desire that drove them was a better, more dignified life for themselves or their families.
Along the border, Samaritans place water to assist migrants, with inadequate provisions, crossing the unforgiving Sonoran Desert. You cannot carry enough water to prevent dehydration from the unrelenting, blistering Arizona sun. The Samaritans’ actions mirror those of Christ, who felt human pain and was moved with compassion at the sight of those harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Christ lives in our desert, his hands place the water to quench people’s thirst.
Every day along the border in Ambos, Nogales, Jesuit Fr. Sean Carroll, and his Kino Border Initiative team serve food to migrants who have been deported into Mexico. The migrants sit at tables with some semblance of dignity and are served homemade meals. It reminds me of Christ multiplying food for the masses. The volunteers, often high school students, imitate the One who provided for the weary.
Sore, blistered feet of the migrants are washed and bandaged by members of the Kino team. Traversing the desert takes its toll. The trek ravishes one’s feet. I often picture Christ taking off his garment and kneeling at the feet of his disciples, washing their feet.
We are told to see migrants and refugees as dangerous, intent on harm. But if one looks intently enough, you encounter Christ in the migrants and refugees who, like us, only want the best for their children and for themselves. If you look intently enough you will see in their faces the face of Christ. We are told to stay clear of migrants and refugees, close off our borders, but if one looks intently enough you will see Christ present in the here and now through the actions of people who see where love is needed and who respond.