Yesterday on the Feast of All Souls we celebrated mass at the fence that is the border between the United States and Mexico. It was the 13th annual gathering and one of the largest I can remember. Each year, however, those of us who attend on the U.S. side have been pushed further back from the fence. While our brothers and sisters in Mexico sit or stood right up against the twelve foot high barricade, we were admonished to “stay back” almost thirty feet by the border patrol agents who were present in force, armed and in uniform as well as in plainclothes. “Why?” some Annunciation House volunteers dared to ask. “For your safety,” they were told. “Sometimes there are some dangerous people in that crowd.” I wonder where the real danger lies?
At the sign of peace many of us ignored that warning. How could we not? How could we stand behind the orange danger cones when we saw the faces of friends the other side of that fence, waiting for us? Moments earlier when Bishop Ramirez prayed the words of consecration I looked across the divide and through the fence as he said, “This is my body, broken for you. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” We are the Body and Blood of Christ. We, on both sides of the fence, are one Body, one Spirit in Christ. “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” No one prevented us from crossing that stretch of sand and reaching fingertips through the fence. “Paz de Cristo!”
After receiving the Eucharist I heard the familiar opening chords of the communion meditation song and my eyes filled with tears. “You shall cross the barren desert and you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live. Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me and I will give you rest.” Here we were in a desert where many have died of thirst, where many have lost their way, where they have been misunderstood, where they have looked for the compassionate face of God and been refused.
We remembered those souls yesterday at the fence. May they forgive us now as they rest in eternal peace. And dare we ask them to pray for us? Pray that we have strength in the convictions of our faith that call us to “be not afraid” as we advocate for immigration reform; to “be not afraid” in admitting and treating our national addiction to drugs; to “be not afraid” in confessing that our economy runs on the sale of weapons and depends on the imposition of trade agreements that are anything but “free”.
May we remember the challenge of Pope Paul VI: “How then will the cry of the poor find an echo in your lives? That cry must, first of all, bar you from whatever would be a compromise with any form of social injustice.”
May these souls pray for us to “be not afraid” in raising our voices and crossing whatever borders divide the Body of Christ.