Day 3 – Christmas Novena
O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel, You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him Your Law. * Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
Every minute eight people leave their homes – fleeing from war, persecution and terror. Current figures from UNHCR calculate more than 65 million forcibly displaced persons. The UN Refugee Commission estimates that four out of five refugees take refuge in their own or a neighbouring country, where they often have to survive in difficult circumstances. The degree of willingness of the industrial countries to accept and integrate refugees is as disappointingly low as ever. People are losing their lives daily in the attempt to flee.
We are called to be brothers and sisters to one another. The struggles and joys of refugees and migrants are also ours. We pray for them and with them as a sign of our solidarity.
The word used in the Bible for ‘foreigner’ is the same as the word for ‘guest’. They are under God’s special protection. Jesus himself was threatened with death soon after his birth. His family fled with the infant Jesus, setting out on a dangerous journey into an uncertain future.
Refugees are mainly foreigners to us because they come from a different cultural background. To accept them is lived hospitality. Many have suffered traumatic experiences, either in their home country or in the course of their flight. Practical help, compassion, as well as a listening ear are often a great help and encouragement to them.
One of the many thousands of people who have fled Syria is Homan. With many others he lives in our local area. Every day they come to our parish to learn German. At times he sighs over the new language. He misses his family and friends. Many of them are no longer alive. We know Homan and his friends and have taken the likeable young man to our hearts. At long last Homan has received his residence permit and no longer lives in constant fear that he might be deported. His wife is still in Syria. He speaks to her every day. She is still not allowed to join him. Homan is an extremely courageous and strong personality. He enriches us – as do so many of the refugees.
Merciful God, we pray to you for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life. Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished. May we never forget them, but honour their sacrifice with deeds more than words. We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope. Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through your tenderness and protection. In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.
Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centredness. Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters. May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.
(Prayer of Pope Francis when he visited the refugees on Lesbos, on 16 April 2016)