Biblical Roots of Migration

When we examine things theologically, we examine them through God’s Reason, his Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ our Lord. All issues in the created world can and indeed must be studied through a theological perspective.

What does it mean to study something through a theological perspective? Simply put, as a person of faith, to take the issue at hand and run it through the fonts of Divine Revelation – Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. From there, we look to see what the Magisterium, the official teaching power of the Church, has to say about it. And, finally, we can then examine what modern and contemporary thinkers say about the topic.

The issue of migration and immigration can be examined through a theological perspective. And, it is with this hope, that we begin the biblical roots of immigration and migration. One can state that immigration comes up by necessity in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis (Gn 3:23), when our first parents, Adam and Eve, have to find a new home after their justly deserved and necessary expulsion. In Genesis 11, Abraham leaves his home in Ur and arrives in Canaan. This leaving of home out of necessity (in both these cases, famine) is also seen in the other Patriarchs, Isaac (Gn 12:10) and Jacob (Gn 26:1).

The next obvious example is found in the Lawgiver, Moses, in the Book of Exodus, and then later in the great Book of Ruth, who is herself an immigrant who elects to stay in the land of her late husband, Emilech, and care for her mother-in-law, Naomi, who herself migrates from Bethlehem to Moab. And of course, there are the Israelites themselves, being exiled from their own land and being brought to a foreign land. The list of Old Testament immigrants could go on and on.

The thing to consider through this perspective is that, in each case, these Old Testament immigrants are created by God in his image and likeness, just like all of us, and despite the effects of Original Sin and actual, personal sin in their lives, they never lose that God-given dignity.

Each of these Old Testament immigrants had faith in God and wanted to make a better life for their family and their people. Each of them wanted to preserve and maintain their own culture while at the same time, interact with the cultural reality in which they found themselves. They are not that much different than many of the immigrants whom we meet today in our parishes in our Diocese of Brooklyn.

Next week, we will examine what the New Testament has to say about immigration.