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Fifth Sunday of Lent: Solidarity Sunday, April 7

Sister Divinia Pedro is engaged in ministry in Fort St. James, British Columbia. Mark Hayter, a parishioner with Sister Divinia at Our Lady of the Snows Parish, shared this beautiful and moving reflection on migrants and refugees. We have his permission to share his reflection here.

Today is Solidarity Sunday. Solidarity means unity. Today on Solidarity Sunday, we are asked to unite with our brothers and sisters around the world who have been forced to flee their homes, their country, and their families. There are more than 68 million people who have been forced to leave their home worldwide.

Remember last summer, when most of us here were forced to flee our homes here in Fort St. James because of the 100,000 hectare wildfire only a few kilometres away? 

We did not want to leave our homes, our possessions, and our community. Thankfully, the wildfire was controlled and we were able to return only after about 10 days. Imagine how it is for millions of people who are forced to leave their homes with little hope of returning, children like the Rohingya who fled Burma to escape persecution and are now living in Bangladesh.

Or millions of Syrians forced to leave because of the war in Syria and are spread out all over the world, like the Syrian family that moved here.

Or the Philippine people affected by Typhoon Haiyan that struck five years ago which destroyed their homes along the coastline. Some are still trying to rebuild and recover and find a place to live.

Many of these people are poor, have little help and support to recover from their terrible situations. Development and Peace promotes solidarity with the poor, to help the world’s poor and disadvantaged in their struggle for resources, justice, education and a place to live.

Imagine what a journey it will be if you are poor, oppressed, have been forced from your home, your country, your culture. From a place you felt connected to the land, to your families and ancestry. 

When we stand in solidarity with the 68 million people displaced in the world, we take time to understand their journey but also make a journey ourselves, a journey of faith, love and hope. 

Pope Francis said hope is the force that drives us to share the journey because the journey is made by both sides: the journey by those who are forced to flee and come to our country but also by us who go towards their heart to understand them, to understand their culture and their language. It is a joint journey, but without hope, that journey cannot be made. Hope is the drive to share the journey of life.

Through this journey, which is rooted in the dignity of every person, Pope Francis invites us to meet the other and to see the humanity of each migrant. 

The second reading in today’s Mass strikes me: the part about accepting the loss of material things, much like the migrants had to do. It means you will gain Christ and forget about what lies behind while straining forward to what lies ahead, to continue to pursue the goal of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus.

To stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are forced to leave their homes, we can help them reach their pursuit of faith and hope by supporting Development and Peace, by welcoming them, by reaching out to them on their journey.

Our Share Lent donations will enable Development and Peace to address causes of forced migration and to build a better world of justice and peace to allow people to return.

In John’s Gospel about the adulteress, Jesus’ response to those who would have her stoned reveal God’s mercy. Jesus does not seek to embarrass the accusers or to accuse the adulteress. Instead, he makes the accusers aware and to think about how they could be judged by what they have done in their past and to think about Gods mercy -- that they have often spoke of the goodness of God, have cried out for his mercy and experienced his forgiveness. So Jesus reminds them: why should they pass judgement over this woman when they themselves have sinned? Jesus does not judge the woman. He recognizes her dignity, brings her back into society and lifts her up and invites her to seek a fresh start to look to the future and God to sin no more. 

Let’s not judge migrants but show compassion and overcome our fears. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Jesus himself had many journeys. As a child refugee he went to Egypt, as a preacher he travelled the roads of Galilee. His final journey was carrying the wooden cross up Calvary. 

Jesus encountered many people along his journey. For many of us, faith is an encounter and Jesus teaches us to encounter others.

In our faith, each person has worth and dignity and all have a place in our world. Every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Development and Peace invites you to share the journey of the encounter with migrants and with the poor. 

We don’t have to do extraordinary things to make a difference. Small gestures with the openness of human understanding and compassion can do extraordinary things. We can do simple things like give to Development and Peace, pray for migrants and the poor and volunteer your time and efforts to those people in our town and wherever you go. 

As Pope Francis says: Let’s build a culture of encounter, a culture of mercy and compassion.

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