Hondurans “Crossing Over” into the United States Are Today’s “Hebrews”: They Are God’s Chosen People!

Refugee Caravan

Readings for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jer. 31:7-9; Ps. 126: 1-6; Heb. 5:1-6; Mk. 10: 46-52

Today’s Gospel reading centralizes spiritual blindness and the nature of the cure Jesus offers. By extension, it provides perspective on the caravan of more than 6000 Central Americans (mostly Hondurans) currently approaching our southern border.

True: on the surface, the episode is simply about Jesus working yet another miracle – this time for the sightless beggar called Bartimaeus. However, in reality the story represents two fundamental biblical paradigms — one describes the true nature of conversion. The other identifies God’s “Chosen People.”

Let me unpack all of that.

Begin by recalling the relevant story as written by Mark.

A blind man is sitting by the roadside. His garment is spread out on the ground before him. The cloak invites passers-by to throw a coin on its fabric. Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is near accompanied by a large crowd. So, he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

Jesus’ followers try to shut the man up. But the beggar won’t hear of it. He shouts even louder, “JESUS HAVE PITY ON ME!”

Finally, Jesus hears the blind man’s voice over the crowd’s din. He calls him over. The man jumps up and throws aside his garment (his only source of income). [In other words, unlike the Rich Young Man Mark presented two weeks ago (MK 10:17-30), this specifically poor man has no trouble renouncing everything he has and confronting the Master empty-handed.]

So, Jesus asks, “What would you have me do?”

The man responds, “I want to see!” Jesus replies, “Your faith has saved you.” So, the blind man is given sight. He then follows Jesus “on the way” of non-violent compassion.

Bartimaeus, then, is a model of conversion.

In performing this wonder, Jesus was acting as compassion itself. As a prophet, he was following in the footsteps of Jeremiah whose words we read in this morning’s first reading. There Jeremiah was a spokesperson for a God announcing good news specifically to women, their children, the exiled, blind, and lame. As today’s readings from the Book of Psalms recalls, that God makes such people’s dreams come true, and turns their tears to laughter, not to guilt and shame.

And that brings me to the Honduran Caravan presently approaching our borders. They say that this caravan of more than 6000 people, mostly from Honduras, constitutes the largest mass exodus we’ve ever seen in this hemisphere.

When I say “Exodus,” I’m choosing my words carefully. The word is loaded, as it recalls the key Jewish Testament paradigm I mentioned earlier. The word reminds us of the original “Exodus,” when a motley horde of slaves stormed the borders of what we now call Palestine.

For Jews today, that first Exodus was the beginning of Hebrew history. In fact, the word Hebrew means the people who cross-over or pass through. Again, that refers to the origins of the ones who thought of themselves as The People of God – as God’s chosen ones. According to their tradition, the Hebrew refugees were God’s chosen ones — God’s favorites.

The Cross-Over People were seeking land. They thought of themselves as on a divinely-inspired mission to take possession of acreage from those who had too much of it. The refugee-invaders believed that the earth belongs to God, and that God’s intention is a world with room for everyone – not just for those who have sufficient resources to claim ownership of the Great Commons God created.

However, such claims made no difference to rich Canaanite landowners. Like many today, they had appropriated the Great Commons as their own. And in doing so (at least according to the Cross-Over People) they transgressed God’s fundamental intention.

As would-be followers of Jesus, self-proclaimed Christians (as well as all Jews) should be the first to recognize and welcome today’s Cross-Over People as contemporary Hebrews.

Moreover, in the case of Hondurans, we should be clear in drawing connections between our government’s oppressive policies that have created the conditions the Hondurans desire to escape. Our government has treated them the way the Egyptian Pharaohs treated their Hebrew slaves. To wit, remember:

• The decades-long support of the United Brands (now Chiquita) Banana company against workers seeking higher wages and better living conditions.
• The wars waged by the U.S. in Central America all during the 1980s.
• The Central American Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that disemployed small farmers and removed protections from workers throughout the region and in Honduras specifically.
• The United States-supported military overthrow of the democratically elected Honduran government in 2009
• U.S. support of the current Honduran president who was elected in a fraudulent election.

With all of this in mind, our prayer today should be, “Lord, I want to see. Help me to ignore those (including those claiming to be your followers) who would shut me up. Lord, let me hear instead the voices of the poor, the widows, orphans, and refugees. Cure my blindness to the true identity of your people. Help me to voice my fearless support for the Honduran refugees.”

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

11 thoughts on “Hondurans “Crossing Over” into the United States Are Today’s “Hebrews”: They Are God’s Chosen People!”

  1. When we are all poor together, then we will all be rich together. Letting go of the selfishness that separates us, will bring us all together in an Earthly Kingdom of Love and Happiness.

    We are addicted to our selfishness. Spiritual paths and practices are aimed at releasing us from this self enslavement. As Thoreau said, do we own our barns and land, or do they own us?

    Selfishness is the enemy of Unconditional Love for All Beings.

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  2. Mike, I like your take on this. Last year I wrote a poem with a different take: “The Desperate and Hungry, Clawing at the Gates”

    Sweet Baby James Taylor, singing like Jeremiah in his song “New Hymn”—

    “But when we thirst in this dry night
    We drink from hot wells poisoned with the blood of children.
    And when we strain to hear a steady homing beam,
    Our ears are balked by stifled moans
    And howls of desolation from the throats of sisters, brothers, wild men,
    Clawing at the gates for bread.”

    Here in the richest days of the richest land in human history,

    Led by the self-proclaimed richest man,

    Commander-in Chief of the most powerful war machine in history,

    Able, ready . . . and apparently willing

    To annihilate our “enemies” at any time

    (with the collateral damage of annihilating all life, our entire World) . . .

    We take away the crumbs from our poorest,

    And mock them and curse them for being poor;

    We deport women back to their dangerous, impoverished countries,

    Separating them from their children—who are often American citizens.

    We do this, or it is done for us, in our very names.

    Don’t be surprised, then, that the “Barbarians” are clawing at the gates,

    Hungry, fearful, desperate.

    They will find a way in, a way to feed their bellies,

    A way to take

    What we wouldn’t share.

    We are the new Romans, trying to hold the line.

    They are the Vandals, Alans, Suebi, the Germanic “hordes,”

    Encamped by the Rhine River in December of 406 A.D.,

    Waiting for the river to freeze,

    Waiting for their chance.

    Bob Coughlin / August 9, 2017

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    1. Thank you for sharing this insightful and beautifully written poem, Bob. Would you mind if at some stage, I posted this to make sure that readers of my blog might benefit from it. Peggy and I are sorry that we missed seeing you and your family at David and Betsy’s gala. Guy Patrick was here in CT visiting last week and said it was great.

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  3. I like your thoughts Bob. The rich man’s response to the ragged column of the hungry is to send an army of his thugs to repulse them.

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  4. Only the wealthy aristocrats count – the rest of humanity are just a rabble to be controlled by force and guile, or else be destroyed. Trump is afraid that those he has stolen from will come for their gold, hence he seeks to build higher walls to keep them out. The excluded ones are building into a tsunami of the rejected.

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    1. Great article, Mike. This horrendous story remains unknown to most “Americans.” Our attitudes have been shaped by false U.S. histories. Have you come across David Ray Griffin’s “The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic?” It’s well worth reading. I’m so tired of our “Greatest country in the world” rhetoric. I love the way Vitchek boldly describes Mexican culture as superior to ours and the basic way of life there as higher in quality. Thanks for sharing this important piece.

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  5. The Hebrews left Egypt and traveled to a vacant land to build their cities. The people from the Southern Hemisphere are trying to get into the USA to take over jobs from the citizens of the USA and get on their welfare lines where others will pay the bill. Since priests and nuns promote these types of events it is high time that they get a job where they have to make their own wages. Instead living on donations. If that were the case they would be more hesitant to jump on the band wagon to welcome the illegals trying to by pass our laws to enter our country. Don’t forget the USA welcomes 1,000,000 into our country each year when they come through the legal ports of entry.

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    1. Actually (at least according to the Bible) Canaan was not a vacant land. In fact, the Promised Land never belonged exclusively to the Hebrew or Jewish people, but was shared by many other tribes (e.g. Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Geshurites, Maacaathites, and Philistines). Also, don’t you think it a bit questionable for descendants of former immigrants to adopt an exclusionary position towards new arrivals? Then there’s that core commitment expressed throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition about God’s special care for widows, orphans, immigrants and refugees.

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  6. I think in line with recent blogs you might want to check out Brain Pickings byvMaria Popova. The midweek pick me up is on criticism and being open to any number of interpretations

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