This commentary has been adapted from a homily delivered during a memorial mass for immigrants at San Fernando Cathedral Thursday night.

The Lord says, in Exodus, “You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. … If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry” (Ex 22:20.22). 

Not all sins have the same degree of intrinsic evil by which God is offended, nor are their consequences equally serious. The exploitation of the poor, and in particular of migrants — who flee dramatic situations in search of opportunities and hope — is particularly grave.

The carnage by abandonment — whether intentional or negligent — of our 53 brothers and sisters killed on Monday, is one of those “sins that cry to heaven.” Anyone who is not outraged is complicit to at least some degree. They are God’s children. We grieve the loss of these immigrant brothers and sisters because they are members of God’s family. 

Certainly, it is traders of death who consider lives as merchandise and ultimately as collateral damage. However, it is not permissible for anyone in our society to remain idle and look the other way in the face of the humanitarian crisis caused to unregulated migration. We all have a role to play in solidarity with people fleeing in search of opportunities for development.

Even though it is everyone’s responsibility, it falls primarily on the lay faithful to create the political incentives for our elected representatives to fulfill their duty to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Catholic lay faithful must assume their baptismal duty to sanctify social life by organizing it according to the values of the Gospel. Everyone must do their bit to be part of the solution.

Catholic social teaching provides moral guidance primarily for the laity in their duty of civic engagement. All social life is based on our shared responsibility to uphold human dignity and to pursue the common good, through the practice of solidarity and subsidiarity.

Immigration is a natural phenomenon that arises from the supply and demand for labor and security. It is like a stream of water. If it is not given a channel, it finds it naturally, but not in the right way. Migration is a natural human right. Likewise, the receiving country has the right and the duty to regulate it.

In very concrete ways, the path of immigrants often identifies with the itinerary of the beatitudes described in the gospel of Matthew. It does us good to hear their experiences beyond headlines and editorials. As much as possible, I suggest listening first-hand to the stories of immigrants. It is not uncommon to realize that they have traveled challenging spiritual journeys throughout their physical exodus. They are a great gift for receiving countries, like ours, which owes its greatness largely to its immigrant spirit.

As Pope Francis has said, these beloved men and women — mostly young adults — were following their hope of a better life. 

As we entrust them to God’s merciful embrace, we are warned so that their lives have not been lost in vain. This tragedy must prevent others. Like Pope Francis said, “may the Lord open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.”

May we learn to walk through the journey of the beatitudes in our civic engagement, coming to realize that politics — rightly understood — is the opposite of ideological confrontation. It is one of the highest forms of charity. It is a path that begins by loving our closest neighbor in order to be able to love even those we do not know.

May the hopes that these deceased pursued be more than fulfilled in heaven through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May she guide them on their final journey to restful waters, where their souls are refreshed.