By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
On September 11, 2010, I celebrated Mass at the Seventh Annual Peace and Social Justice Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was “Immigration Reform: A Catholic Perspective.” It is appropriate that on the anniversary of a national tragedy, we considered how the Lord is asking each of us to treat others in our society.
In my homily, I talked about the relationship of the Beatitudes to the Greek term makarios: a divine state of happiness beyond the reach of our human capacity. It is easy to think of the Beatitudes simply as good acts that we perform for our neighbor, whether it be taking care of the sick or giving to the poor. We must recall, however, that these actions are possible because of the grace of God, Who is the true font of both justice and peace. Every time we are charitable, we are responding to the grace of God in our lives. It is this grace that will truly allow us to receive makarios.
Keeping in mind the divine happiness for which we all long, we should look to Christ’s life when considering social justice. Christ’s actions are first of all descriptive; through the Gospel we are given examples of how to live our lives. Secondly, His life is prescriptive, because He gives us His commands on how best to show our love for God, ourselves and our neighbors.
Taking the Beatitudes as a foundation for this conference about immigration, I witnessed the willingness of many parishioners to apply these guiding principles to our diocesan Church. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn and a former chairman of the USCCB Migration Committee, gave a compassionate presentation on the Lord’s call to welcome the stranger among us. He also made available to the participants his booklet, “Brothers and Sisters in Christ: A Catholic Teaching on the Issue of Immigration.” Parishioners then had the opportunity to participate in break-out sessions to discuss how we might live the Beatitudes in our parishes, which are often the home to diverse cultures and peoples.
If you were unable to attend the conference, I encourage you read about the event in the Arlington Catholic Herald. I ask you also to reflect upon the application of the Beatitudes in your own life and to discern how the Lord is calling you to respond to those who are new to our country. We are after all, through God’s grace, called to makarios, and to share the light of this divine happiness with each person we encounter.