By: Jill Marie Gerschutz Bell, Senior Legislative Specialist, Catholic Relief Services
Holy Thursday, April 13, 2017
After celebrating the first Eucharist and washing the disciples’ feet on Holy Thursday, Jesus gave us the new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” In the Eucharist, He epitomizes sacrificial love. In the washing of the feet, demonstrates humble love. Love is an act.
I think of the refugee parents whose love may mean the ultimate sacrifice for their children. Of Khaled who swam to Europe from Turkey with his daughter Ronya – two and half years young – clinging to his neck. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) met him and his family of six in Serbia in 2015. Their apartment had been bombed and life in a tent outside Aleppo was too fraught with danger. They hiked over mountains,
with Khaled carrying Ronya and her sister, Joud (six months young).
Can we put ourselves in Khaled’s story? I did – imagining what it must have felt like for his wife, Jayal. My children were the same ages as Ronya and Joud. What did it feel like to be so completely exhausted? Physically? Emotionally? To have spent every last penny to find safety? What exuberant joy and gratitude must they have felt simply to arrive to safety, even if cold and wet. But then, a new fear. Would they be taken in? Would they be allowed to stay? Omama, age 8, certainly expected to. She brimmed with the innocent hope of a new home in Germany.
Do we seek to wash the feet of our neighbors, even those who are suffering or outcast? How is God asking us to help? Refugees often feel so far away. But they need a place to stay in safety. Can we welcome Khaled and his family to be our neighbors? Do we feel fear in our hearts?
A little girl in one of CRS’ refugee education centers in Turkey pointed to a Catholic Relief Services sign and asked, “What does Catholic mean?” My colleague replied with a simple explanation. The little girl responded, “Oh, I just thought it meant help.” Ubi caritas.