Multicultural Mass 2015
On January 18, 2015, in recognition of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Daniel Miehm and members of our many multicultural communities, joined together to celebrate the annual Diocesan Multicultural Mass.
An ongoing tradition in our Diocese for over 15 years, this special Mass highlights the many contributions and overall enrichment that the Multicultural Communities of the Diocese have brought to our Diocese. This year, 16 communities were represented at the Eucharistic Celebration, followed by a social celebration afterwards, at which time we tasted foods from other countries and enjoyed many lively cultural performances.
It is my joy and privilege to be able to celebrate this Multi-cultural Mass with you today in this beautiful Cathedral-Basilica of Christ the King. We have celebrated this Mass in the diocese for many years: this year we have very consciously decided to hold it on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. We gather here today as faithful from all parts of our Diocese, aware of our connection with the Church around the world. Indeed, our international congregation today is composed of people from all corners of the globe. I offer greetings to you today from Bishop Douglas Crosby, who is undergoing his own multi-cultural experience at this time, travelling in Vietnam.
Recently I visited one of our parishes that had a great visual of the international flavour of the Church. On their bulletin board they had posted a large map of the world. They then asked parishioners to push pins in the map to identify their country of origin. Every area of that map was dotted with pins! In some places they were thicker than others, but every region of the globe was represented. And that was simply the diversity of one suburban parish. Imagine what it is for this Diocese of Hamilton! In truth you don’t have to imagine - you just have to look around. More than fifteen parishes and many different ethnic groups are represented in our celebration of this Mass today.
The theme for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees is “Church without frontiers, Mother to all.” In his statement for this day, Pope Francis has said, “from the beginning, the Church has been a mother with a heart open to the whole world, and has been without borders.” And he adds, “The Church opens her arms to all people without distinction or limits in order to proclaim that God is love.” The Church fulfills the Lord’s commandment of love when, like him, we identify ourselves with the stranger, with those who suffer, and with the victims of violence and exploitation.
This passage from John’s gospel describes an interesting exchange between Jesus and his first disciples. Andrew and his unnamed companion don’t ask Jesus about the meaning of life, or some interpretation of the Torah. They ask him simply, “Where are you staying?” It might strike us as a funny question, but there is a deep meaning behind it. It signifies that they did not merely wish to speak to Jesus on the road, in passing, as acquaintances might stop and chat. They wanted to remain with him a while and get to know him – to talk out their problems and concerns. And Jesus’ response to him is just as interesting and as meaningful. He tells them, “Come and see.” That was a phrase that rabbis would often use: “Do you want to know the solution to this problem? Come and see and we will think about it together!”
So Jesus’ response was not the offer of a house tour. He was in essence, welcoming them to his home, making a place for them, where they could get to know him. They were looking for more than a passing acquaintanceship. Jesus too was looking for something more, and so he offered to them life itself.
The Church by its very nature must imitate the welcome and the openness of Jesus. The Church as Mother to all promotes throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity. She begets sons and daughters and desires that they always feel at home within her embrace.
I can recall my own semi-immigrant experience when I studied for two years in Rome. (I say semi-immigrant because I went over there with every advantage and mostly lived with other Canadians and Americans.) Nonetheless to be a stranger in a strange land is an unsettling experience: you don’t know the language, the culture or the customs. And yet, every time I walked into a Catholic Church, I felt at home. The sights, the sounds, the smells were all familiar to me. Even if I did not speak very well the language of the people, I always had the sense that I was among my people. That is true, because from many different lands, cultures and languages, together we form the one body of Christ. It is He who gathers us together in the Church.
As we celebrate this Mass and pray on this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we remember in a special way those who have been driven from their lands by war, terrorism, natural disaster and religious persecution. The Church, who is Mother to all, must show particular care to those who have been displaced from their homelands and deprived of peace. It is a promising sign that more of our parishes are reaching out to sponsor Christian families from the Middle East who are now bearing the cross of persecution. In the pattern of our Lord himself, we strive to make a home for them.
For those of you who have come from different lands, either as immigrants or refugees, thank you for the vibrancy you bring to the Church in the diocese of Hamilton. Thank you for your witness of faith and devotion which is a blessing to us. May your parish churches be places of prayer and welcome. And may the Catholic Church in this Diocese and across this country always be for you a home, a friend, a bountiful Mother.