We Were Once Strangers Ourselves

Fr. Arturo Aguilar
February 23, 2011

One of my special memories growing up was visiting my grandmother’s house every day. She lived just up the street and without fail she had a hug and a special treat like an orange or a cookie waiting for my brothers, sister and me at the kitchen table.

Fr. Arturo Aguilar

Fr. Arturo Aguilar

Looking back now, I realize the treat wasn’t so much the orange or cookie, but time spent with mi abuela. The joy came from being welcomed in a special place.

In my ministry as the regional director, I travel the U.S. and visit many parishes to share our Columban missionary story. As a stranger coming into the parishes for a weekend, I am always grateful for the welcome I receive. So often I feel that same kind of hospitality as when I would enter my grandmother’s house through the back door and sit at her table.

Following Jesus’ example, we are called to be that welcoming “hug” with our arms and hearts stretched open wide.

We’ve all experienced that feeling of being a stranger whether it is to a new school, neighborhood, parish, country or some other new discrimination can keep us in the shadows. How comforting it is when we receive a warm smile or hug that says “You belong.” Following Jesus’ example, we are called to be that welcoming “hug” with our arms and hearts stretched open wide. The Church has always had a tradition of welcoming the stranger.

In the U.S., from our Irish and Italian immigrants of the 19th century seeking greener pastures to our Asian, African and Hispanic immigrants today in search of a better life for their families, the Eucharist is the table that brings us together as a family of sisters and brothers united in God’s love.

Pope Benedict XVI chose “One Human Family” as his theme for the 97th World Day for Migrants and Refugees which was celebrated last January 16. His message begins, “ ‘As I have loved you, so you also should love one another’ (John 13:34), is the invitation that the Lord forcefully addresses to us and renews us constantly: if the Father calls us to be beloved children in His dearly beloved Son, He also calls us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

He continues, “It is the Holy Eucharist in particular that constitutes, in the heart of the Church, an inexhaustible source of communion for the whole of humanity. It is thanks to this that the People of God includes ‘every nation, race, people, and tongue’ (Rev. 7:9).”

May our missionary hearts hear these words and be inspired to welcome the stranger among us, for once we were strangers ourselves. May the communion we exchange at the table of the Lord extend to all.