By Amy Schlag
This week we were witnesses to deeply disturbing images and stories such as a mother having her baby taken from her while she was breastfeeding. Toddlers wailing in fear after being stolen from their parents, parents who are given in return a handout with instructions on “How Do I Find My Child(ren). We saw the growth of “immigration centers,” places hauntingly reminiscent of internment camps, as the ghosts of unlearned history begs us to remember it. We witnessed numerous politicians and pastors claiming the actions behind these images were in keeping with the teachings of the Bible. Given their best light, these claims are conveniently misinterpreted understandings. Given their true light they are vile examples of craven “leaders” using the Bible in defense of the indefensible. I will not spend time on responding to those claims, as others have done it with more expertise and elegance than could I. If you are interested in reading these responses, check out some examples included at the end of this post.
Instead, I would like to reflect on something that happened here in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. It is a small story, one not as widely shared as the others. However, it was a moment that actually responded to the call of God and is an example, perhaps mustard seed sized, of what we as Christians are called to do, especially after witnessing such atrocities.
In the Sunday gospel we read from Mark. Mark shares several familiar parables, however Mark also gives us a parable we do not hear in the other gospels, the parable of the Seed [that] Grows From Itself. Perhaps this parable is recounted to encourage those who are disheartened to find out, as in the Parable of the Sower, that many of the metaphorical seeds they have sown have not grown to fruit. In this parable, the labor of the farmer sowing seeds is rewarded. “All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head” (Mark 4: 28). The resulting crop has been fully nourished by God and provided a plentiful crop.
On Thursday, a few hundred folks from Ohio and Kentucky gathered at the Roebling Bridge to sow their own seeds. Kentuckians and Ohioans gathered on their respective sides of the bridge and began to march, coming together in the middle of the bridge, standing in solidarity with immigrants and encouraging an end to the vicious practice of separating families at the U.S./Mexico border. For the Christians in the crowd, they hoped to implore those who heard and saw them to remember the words of Jesus “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and to act in response (Matthew 25: 40).
The people who were there were united in their outrage and their hope, in their fury and faith, in the belief that their actions could make a difference, and like the sower spreading seeds in the parable, hoping their actions would be seeds landing on fertile ground. For them, the potential fertile ground would be those who witnessed the protest, those driving or walking by, reporters covering the story, and the reports from those stories, reports that would carry the heart of the protest into homes, offices, schools, and conversations
Like the sower, once the seeds had been planted, the protesters had to then hope that the seeds and ground would eventually bear fruit. This fruit would take the form of those who passed by and felt moved to join the protest, passengers who honked in support, or perhaps the momentary reconsideration of those who agree with our country’s vicious policy. Perhaps the fruit would come in the continued actions of others, more protests, donations to organizations that can help, calls to those in charge demanding we end this inhumane policy, the growing support of people of faith, or in the conversion of the hearts of politicians who have the power to end this travesty.
Among those in attendance were numerous Sisters from the Congregation of Divine Providence, some of which are pictured above, who were also sowing seeds. Like the others in attendance, the CDP Sisters were moved to be there by our government’s cruel practice of separating children from their family, by the hope their actions could bring change, and also by the fact that they are “moved by the compassion of Christ for the needy and the suffering… [to] undertake whatever [they] can to fill needs, to relieve distress, and to announce the beatitude He promised.”
One of the CDP Sisters shared a moment from the protest with me I found deeply moving, as did she. It was a small, simple moment. As with all good protests, there were signs and chants, with the chants not always coming in unison. In the midst of the protest, a young Latino boy rode by on his bike, and he stopped to take in all that was happening. He hesitantly, but curiously, looked and listened, perhaps having seen or heard previous protests calling for him to go back to where he came from, or worse. As he made out the purpose of the protest, a radiant smile filled his face. It is impossible to know precisely what he was thinking, but hopefully he knew he was loved, supported and welcomed. His smile was the fruit of a seed that had found fertile ground. The CDP Sisters have a mission “to be the face of a loving, provident God to all they meet,” and in that moment they were that face for the young boy. In his smile was the proof that the Kingdom of God can still grow if we continue to do the sowing.
We all know there is work to do, and often that work can feel daunting. I mean what can I, you, do to change government policy, to end this inhumane policy? What difference can one person make? These are questions we have all asked ourselves when facing overwhelming odds. And the answer is, I, you, as single individuals, cannot end this policy. We will quickly give up if we believe our action will end in a stunning change. But we can do small things, and those things are what we are called to do as Christians. As in the parables, Jesus does not demand we succeed in growing all we sow, however, he does demand we try; that we keep sowing. God will take care of the growth, but we must keep sowing seeds. Without seeds there will never be a crop.
Perhaps, if we continue to act, to sow our own seeds, in ways more likely small than big, we too can see the Kingdom of God flourish and reap a mighty crop. A crop, the fruits of which will be justice, mercy, belonging, and a world not separated by borders, but united in the shared love and value for all of humanity.
For those that want to continue to sow seeds, below are a few resources.
American Voice (advocacy for immigrants) https://americasvoice.org/uncategorized/advocates-for-basic-legal-equality-able-call-to-action-donate/
Hola Today at: http://holatoday.org
The Florence Project at: http://firrp.org
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at: https://www.theyoungcenter.org
Kids in Need of Defense at: https://supportkind.org/
Urban Justice Center Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project at https://asylumadvocacy.org/
Articles written to respond to the claim that the US immigration policy is Biblical