Breath of the Spirit Reflection: Why are we so fickle in our welcoming?
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March 28th, 2021: Palm Sunday
Reflection by delfín w. bautista
Lent…a time of year that we reflect over Jesus’ passion and death; a time when we meditate on the ultimate sacrifice as the utmost embodiment of love; a time of thanksgiving for our redemption and the gifts of hope and life incarnated in the resurrection.
In delving into the readings and the themes of this time of year, I ponder on Lent as a time to examine and re-examine, commit and recommit, reflect and re-reflect on the calling, challenge, and invitation to be just welcomers. In this Sunday’s gospels, Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem with celebration and praise. Sadly, we know that the reception that was filled with yearning for change would ultimately lead to, and be replaced by pain, betrayal, and brokenness of this same celebrated prophet by those whose hosannahs turned into fear and rejection. We may be tempted to condemn and shame the crowds in Jerusalem, judging them, although perhaps identifying on some level with their fickleness. We read this narrative while at the same time we recall incidents that happen later in the Gospels. We reflect on the gusto and festivity of welcoming Jesus, and we recognize the hypocrisy that is to come.
We can be hard on the characters in this story; but yet, we may overlook our own shortcomings when it comes to being just welcomers. We neglect to admit that our lives, our communities, and our society embody very similar dynamics: shifting between creating a space of welcome and also vilifying and criminalizing the other. We preach the need to welcome immigrants into the US. We recognize the stories of struggle and hardship of those who migrate to the US, of lives lost, of the abuses inflicted by “the system” on those seeking asylum. We talk about the need to place water in the desert and the need to shut down detention centers. However, in our zeal to hosannah-ize immigrants, might we look the other way when it comes to paying just wages? Do we complain about having to pay more for fruits and vegetables, become silent when immigrants are wrongfully blamed and scapegoated for crimes they did not commit but are often the victims of? When this happens, we go from celebrating contributions to destroying the lives we claim to want to protect. We enjoy the festivities of international street fairs, we go on and on about how we love ethnic cuisine, we pat ourselves on the back for buying fair-trade items. Yet, at the same time we ignore the raids in our communities, the violence of deportations, the caging of children, the shattering of families. Why are we so fickle? Why can we be so eager to hosannah-ize those who come to our borders without seeing the implications of that welcoming? Why can it be so easy for us – like the crowds who welcomed Jesus – to be fickle and unjust welcomers?
Many of us are advocates for LGBTQ equality. We advocate for rainbow families to be welcomed on both sides of the church doors. We counter the rhetoric that treats queer folks and other minoritized groups as second-class citizens with messages that we are all equally blessed. Yet, we are often silent as the number of trans people murdered, specifically trans people of color, increases every year. We may go from pride parades and proclamations of “Yassss” to ignoring the needs of queer youth who experience higher rates of homelessness and suicide. We can be quick to label ourselves as allies and yet refuse to add our names to petitions calling on full legal and lived equality of LGBTQ individuals and groups. We are tempted to hosannah-ize our brothers and sisters without seeing the full call to humanize them. We, too, can be fickle and unjust welcomers.
I don’t mean to shame anyone with these reflections. I too struggle with being a fickle welcomer and with truly incarnating solidarity with those who are minoritized and otherized. I can hosannah with the best of them while also avoiding the blood, sweat, and tears of being a just welcomer in the trenches. It is easy to be an ally who constantly critiques others for not living out and living into our abstract ideals, and yet to fall short of actually enfleshing those ideals in our every day. I invite and challenge all of us to use this Lenten season not to bash ourselves but to check ourselves—are we so zealous to hosannah-ize that we forget that ultimately we must humanize our othered brothers and sisters? My hope is to remind all of us that the hosannah of being just welcomers is messy and that it must be proclaimed with actions both big and small (as St. Francis reminds us, using words only when necessary). We welcome Jesus into Jerusalem by greeting and thanking the grocery store cashier for their work throughout this pandemic. We welcome Jesus into Jerusalem by sharing the wedding announcement of a gay couple while also sharing (and showing up if possible) the event information for a vigil honoring trans lives. We welcome Jesus into Jerusalem by adding a Facebook sticker or frame that calls for solidarity with immigrant communities while also writing a letter to our elected officials demanding for cities and states to become sanctuary communities. Welcoming with the full implications of hosannah is to live by, and live into, the words of Mother Teresa, “do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
delfín is a native of Miami, FL, is of Cuban and Salvadoran heritage, and currently lives in Athens, OH with their beloved of 18 years. A social worker and activist theologian, delfín is passionate about intersectional justice and resilience, especially around the experiences of queer people of color. delfín is a past member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and Trans Caucus and currently serves on the Vision Council for Call To Action.mx. delfín w. bautista, they/them/elles or just delfín