Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 8th, 2011
Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Professor
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial of St. Dominic
[413] Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
Matthew 17:22-27

There are several things in this first reading we probably don’t want to hear. God is reminding the Israelites that everything they have actually belongs to God. The people have the use of them, but in the end they are God’s – “the heavens as well as the earth and everything on it”. Everything. That means not just our possessions, but our talents, our heritage, our opportunities – all lent to us – all gifts. Our task is to use it all as God would (and does, in fact, in giving it to us in the first place). Jesus’ parable of the “talents” in the Gospels makes much the same point. The richness that we have been given is in one sense a test – but better understood, I think, as an opportunity – an opportunity to live out our vocation to share God’s goodness with everyone we encounter.

Well, maybe we can accept that truth – at least in a general way.

It really pinches though when God says “. . . befriend the alien . . . feeding and clothing them.” We have things the alien doesn’t. We have relative security, relative prosperity, relative safety, relatively greater opportunities. All of them gifts. Why should we have them and the alien not? Precisely so we can share – share, not jealously guard. Precisely so we can show, in concrete terms, God’s own incredible generosity. We share not because we’re generous, but because what we share was not really ours to begin with. How can the world know who God is if it doesn’t see Him acting in those who claim to believe in Him?

But what about illegal aliens? We have laws, laws that ought to be obeyed. Yes, but laws are human institutions, necessary for human societies to function in an orderly way, and proper respect for law is certainly a virtue. However, it was not God who declared who could immigrate and who could not. It was not God who set quotas. Necessary as regulations must be, they are not absolute. To make them so is to make an idol of law where it is instead a tool – a tool to be used wisely.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that he could find no basis in natural law for private ownership. But, practical philosopher that he was, he justified such ownership because he noted that we humans took better care of things we owned personally than of things held in common (a poignant commentary in its own right on fallen human nature). So, before we get too indignant about our rights to what we “own”, it would be useful to remember that property “rights” are human creations and, in God’s eyes, they don’t really exist.

This interaction between God’s laws and human laws is tricky. There is no single right answer. All we can do is pray God to show us the way – that, and be willing to hazard our lives and our properties always and everywhere.
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