At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let this direct how we respond to newcomers in our midst, who should be treated with respect and generosity.
It’s not easy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, especially those very different from us, and this can cause us to have doubts and fears, Francis said Jan. 14.
“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view. Having doubts and fears is not a sin.”
“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” he continued. “The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, to encounter the different, to encounter the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”
Pope Francis gave this homily at a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 104th celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme for this year was: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”
Present at the Mass were immigrants and refugees from around the world who are now part of the Diocese of Rome.
In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 21: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).”
He emphasized that in welcoming the migrant or refugee, we have an opportunity to welcome Jesus.
The communities that receive migrants and refugees aren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. Migrants and refugees themselves, who have just arrived in a new place, also have fears, such as the fear “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination and failure,” the Pope said.
Francis explained how in the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus calls his disciples to “Come, and see,” and how today this invitation is addressed to all of us.
“It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”
Entrusting the world’s migrants and refugees to the care of Mary, Most Holy, the Pope concluded by asking her intercession, that “responding to the supreme commandment of charity and love of neighbor, may we all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”
Following the Mass, Pope Francis led the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in the Casa Santa Marta for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
Following the prayer, he announced that “for pastoral reasons,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be moved from Jan. 14, as established by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, to the second Sunday of September. Therefore, the next celebration of the day will take place Sept. 8, 2019, he said.
In his Angelus message the Pope also spoke about the importance of not leaving our knowledge of Jesus to “hearsay,” but how we need to really encounter him “in prayer, in meditation on the Word of God and in the frequenting of the Sacraments.”
“Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a journey of faith and discipleship,” he said.
“We could have many experiences, accomplish many things, establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our lives and make our projects and initiatives fruitful.”