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C H A P T E R S E V E N T E E N Fruit of the Vine and Work of Human Hands Immigration and the Eucharist D A N I E L G . G R O O D Y In November 2003, I attended a mass in El Paso, Texas, along the U.S.Mexico border.We celebrated mass outside, in the open air, in the dry, rugged, and sun-scorched terrain where the United States meets Mexico. This liturgy was a time not only to remember all the saints and all the souls of history but also the thousands of Mexican immigrants who died crossing over the border in the last ten years. Like other liturgies, a large crowd gathered to pray and worship together. Unlike other liturgies, however, a sixteen-foot iron fence divided this community in half, with one side in Mexico and the other side in the United States. To give expression to our common solidarity as a people of God beyond political constructions, the two communities joined altars on both sides of the wall. Even while Border Patrol agents and helicopters surrounded the liturgy and kept a strict vigilance,lest any Mexicans cross over,people sang, worshiped, and prayed. People prayed for the Mexican and U.S. governments .People prayed for those who died.And people prayed to understand better their interconnectedness to each other. I remember in particular the sign of peace, when one normally shakes a hand or shares a hug with one’s neighbor. Unable to touch my Mexican neighbor except through some small holes in the fence,I became painfully aware of the unity we celebrated 2 99 Groody-17 11/13/07 3:22 PM Page 299 daniel g. groody 300 but the divisions that we experienced. In the face of the wall between us, it struck me how we could experience concurrently our unity in Christ but our dividedness in our current reality, for no other reason than that we were born on different sides of the fence. It brought to a new level the insight of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said that “Sunday at 11:00 (is) the most segregated hour in America.” As I have reflected on this Eucharist at the border,I have been reminded of the integral link between social justice and the liturgy and in particular between the option for the poor in the Eucharist.Gustavo Gutiérrez says that, in the end, the option for the poor is about the Eucharist.1 The Eucharist is the recollection of the memory of the life,teachings,death,and resurrection of Jesus,and the option for the poor tries to make this connection between what we do in Church and how we live in society. In this brief essay,I shall look at the very complex issue of undocumented immigration in the United States and analyze it through the framework of the Eucharist.As a work of constructive theology,I seek to make the critical link between the Eucharist, immigration, and the option for the poor. A Sociotheological Hermeneutic of a Complex Reality For the last fifteen years I have been talking to immigrants, U.S. Border Patrol agents, coyote smugglers (who transport people across the border), ranchers, vigilante groups, educators, congressmen, medical personnel, social workers, human rights advocates, and others involved in the complex drama along the U.S.-Mexico border. I have spoken to ranchers who have seen their property trashed by immigrants who parade through their land and leave behind water jugs, litter, and discarded clothing. I have spoken to educators and hospital administrators who feel increasing financial pressure from the influx of newly arrived immigrants. I have listened to U.S. Border Patrol agents tell stories of being pinned down by gunfire from drug smugglers of cocaine and marijuana.I have spoken to congressional leaders charged with the responsibility of safeguarding a stable economy and protecting the common good, especially since 9/11. I have spoken to coyote smugglers who have tried to guide people across the treacherous terrain along the border and find some profit in doing so. But most of all, I have Groody-17 11/13/07 3:22 PM Page 300 spoken to immigrants and heard hundreds of stories of what it is like to break from home, cross the border, and enter the United States as an undocumented immigrant. In speaking with these different groups along the border,I have learned that...


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