By Msgr. Hugh J. Shields

“Be not afraid.”

“I am with you till the end of time.”

“I will send the Holy Spirit to be with you.”

“I will not leave you orphans.”

Messages and assurances given to a frightened, timid and, at times, demoralized group of apostles and disciples of Christ who were trying their best to see and follow God’s will for them.

As we approach the feast of Pentecost, the event empowering men and women with the resolve to proclaim Christ’s message of love, compassion, forgiveness, truth and justice we are, once again, invited to allow the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts and loosen our tongues.

Changes in Arizona state law have polarized, stereotyped, judged and clearly pointed “omissions” on the part of many with regard to necessary immigration law reform in our country.

It is incumbent on us, as believers in Christ’s message of love, to not allow the obvious void, chasm or “enforcement only” emphasis to become the accepted law of the state, or the law and attitude of our country.

Our Catholic bishops have been urging us to be aware of, and active in, the Justice for Immigrants Campaign. A comprehensive immigration law reform on the national level is needed to keep inspanidual states from moving toward lawmaking that has, and will have, tremendously detrimental effects on the values upon which this nation was founded. Our bishops are asking us, urging us, to involve ourselves with our lawmakers to require from them their very best – regardless of whether or not it is an election year – in facing this challenge now.

Christ’s message to the early apostles and disciples was to fill the void of darkness, chaos, hate, destruction, prejudice and death with His Father’s mandate to “love one another as I have loved you.” We are at a crucial time in the history of our country. A “void” is being created that demands Christ’s presence in the form of the Catholic community. Social justice is not optional for us as Catholics.

If we are courageous enough to fill the “void” on behalf of our undocumented with the comprehensive love of Christ, then we can confidently recall the faithful reassurance that is before us today. It is the same one given the apostles and disciples in Jesus’ time: “Be not afraid. I am with you.”

Msgr. Hugh Shields is the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.