The Immigrant as Evangelizer: Christian Faith, the Border, and the Option for the Poor
On May 8, 2018, more than 60 people gathered in the parish hall of St. Cecilia’s Church in Boston to participate in A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ) Workshop, The Immigrant as Evangelizer: Christian Faith, the Border, and the Option for the Poor, led by Roberto S. Goizueta, PhD, Margaret O’Brien Flatley Professor Emeritus of Catholic Theology at Boston College. The AFTDJ mission is raising consciousness about social issues that affect the most vulnerable among us, as well as creating opportunities to walk in solidarity with those less fortunate. Dr. Goizueta spoke eloquently about the vulnerable populations who, for most of history, live at the borders of countries as well as the in the inner cities and beyond. Using the words of the Second Vatican Council, Dr. Goizueta talked about the “Option for the Poor,” a theory that that examines God’s universal love and his preferential love of the poor. When describing more privileged populations, he postulates that their lack of vulnerability causes an inability for such people to have genuine feelings, to truly be alive and to recognize that our “lives and futures are always beyond our complete control.”
AFTDJ workshops honor the human dignity of all and examine how faith challenges each of us to work for a share in God’s creations. Dr. Goizueta posed to the group the idea that God’s love, because of its universality, takes different forms for different groups of people. God’s love is just that for vulnerable populations while his love for less vulnerable populations is to present them with the challenge of approaching and knowing the vulnerable, honoring their human dignity, eventually converting a neutral or negative view of the vulnerable to one where their very human dignity is acknowledged and accepted.
Dr. Goizueta reminded us that as much as we would like to think that we control our own happiness, happiness is actually beyond our control. Happiness may be sought but may only be found by reaching beyond borders and barriers that we have created. We never know at what moment we will find happiness, or who will show us that happiness. It is likely to be the poor, people we don’t know, people we perceive as powerless or weak, people whom we fear. Their vulnerability does not impede them from the ability to touch us, a total stranger, to share the love that God has bestowed up on them.