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Archbishop Cordileone: Catholics at the Back of the Line

Archbishop Cordileone delivered the following homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral Plaza in San Francisco on September 20, 2020.

Whenever I hear today’s Gospel reading, I recall the years that I served as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Calexico. In the desert heat, I would jog early in the morning, often along the border fence between the United States and Mexico. There I would see the exact scene Our Lord describes: men standing in the streets, waiting to be hired to work in fields so they could make a day’s wage.

Like the workers at the eleventh hour, these men were at the end of the line: the ones left out and ignored by society, the people barely able to survive. Often people like this would knock on the church door for help, because they knew that in a new and strange land, the Church would help them. 

I remember one man, having arrived in this country without the proper documentation, who rang the doorbell and asked me, the parish priest, for a bus ticket to get to the place where he hoped to escape poverty and violence. So I gave him a ride to the bus station and bought him a ticket. I was aware that I was breaking the law, since it is against the law to provide transportation to an undocumented immigrant. But the highest law is love of God and love of neighbor, and that law has to take precedence over the human-made law of the state when government would ask us to turn our backs on God or our neighbor in need.

Now in San Francisco, all of us here are being put at the end of the line. No matter how rich or poor, no matter whether newly arrived or from families that have been here for many generations, it is our Catholic faith that unites us, and it is because of our Catholic faith that we are being put at the end of the line.

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