“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
These lines, taken by Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus,” have been in the news of late as politicians and pundits quote the lines in response to the president’s latest executive order.
But if you know your history, you know that The Statue of Liberty, which arrived in New York in 1885 and was officially unveiled in 1886, was not very popular at first. No one likes it when a gift ends up costing money. Lazarus is credited as being among the first to really understand the significance of Lady Liberty. Still, her poem did not become famous until years later. In 1901 a friend rediscovered her words and in 1903 the last lines of the poem were engraved on a plaque and placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty does not hold those words in her hand, as some on Twitter would have you believe. Someone who was paying attention had to place them where they live today.
If you want to quote something that underscores the fecklessness of the executive order, go back to another text, written hundreds of years before.
“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45).
I imagine that passage was not met with overwhelming popularity when it was first announced. Be nice to my enemy? Are you kidding? Open my door to the hungry, the homeless, the refugee? The ones who smell? Are you serious? They are so different than me. Welcome the stranger? But what if they hurt me? Shouldn’t I first test them to see what their intentions are, have them fill out paperwork, wait in line for years, and then help them? Wouldn’t that be safer?
I would imagine the best way to turn someone against you, to foster their supposed hate for you is to slam in the door in their face and tell them they are not welcome.
We have been preaching the Gospel of Matthew for a few thousand years.
The time has come to show our brothers and sisters in need whether we really believe what we preach. As the great Fulton Sheen reminded his pupils, “If you do not live what you believe, you will end up believing what you live.”
God is love. That is not an alternate fact. It is Truth. Those of us who say we believe in God should remember that.