In our day, marked by the welcoming of migrants and the ‘collaborating with people who think differently,’ many may be shocked at the words of the Angelic Doctor: ‘Man’s relations with foreigners are twofold: peaceful, and hostile’ (I-II, 105, a.3)
Yes, in this article of the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas explains the Chosen people’s relations with foreigners in detail: ‘Befriend the foreigner, feeding and clothing him’ (Dt 10:18); ‘You shall not violate the rights of the foreigner’ (Dt 24:17); ‘When a foreigner resides with you in your land, do not molest him’ (Lev 19:33).
But it is also very clear that this benevolence was intended for the outsiders who came seeking to integrate, in some manner, with the Chosen people, and become true compatriots. This was true to such an extent, that all of the laws that God had set for practice by the Jews were also binding for the foreigners: ‘You shall have but one rule, for foreigner and native alike. I, the Lord, am your God’ (Lev 24:22); ‘You shall have the same law for the resident foreigner as for the native of the land’ (Num 9:14). ‘There is but one rule for you and for the resident foreigner’ (Num 15:16). ‘You shall have but one law for him who sins inadvertently, whether he be a native Israelite or an foreigner residing with you’ (Num 15:29). ‘Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him; foreigner and native alike must be put to death for blaspheming the Lord’s name’ (Lev 24:16).
Often the reason why God commands this hospitality becomes clear: He wishes that the true religion be made known to the others, in the desire that He be adored by all peoples, just as he was among the Israelite people: ‘To the foreigner, likewise, who is not of your people Israel, but comes from a distant land to honor you (since men will learn of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, listen from your heavenly dwelling. Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may fear you as do your people Israel’ (1Kings 8:41-44).
But the compassionate attitude God ordained did not dispense a special vigilance in relation to the newcomers, for they could also be the cause of ruin and diminishment of religious fervor among the people. ‘Lodge a stranger with you, and he will subvert your course, and make a stranger of you to your own household’ (Sir 11:34). The Lord said to Moses, ‘Soon you will be at rest with your fathers, and then this people will take to rendering wanton worship to the strange gods among whom they will live in the land they are about to enter. They will forsake me and break the covenant which I have made with them’ (Dt 31:16).
This was certainly realistic, for the careless openness to foreigners could give rise to untold dangers, ‘since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people’ (cf. Summa Theologica I-II, 105, a.3). Consequently, only some immigrants were admitted with benevolence: specifically, those from nations having affinity with the Hebrews. On the other hand, the nations who had treated the Israelites as enemies were never admitted into their conviviality (cf. Suma Theologica I-II, 105, a.3).
We cannot close ourselves to those in need; we are obliged to extend a charitable hand to them, by our spiritual works of mercy, and, within our particular means, corporal works of mercy as well. But we have to be mindful and careful to avoid straying from our own faith to attend to those who are not in agreement with it. We must not put the light of our holy religion ‘under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house’ (Mt 5:15).
The Christian past of our peoples is a precious gift that we may not allow to fall prey to indifferentism or a false respect for non-Catholics. In this calamitous 21st century, then, the affirmations of the Popes regarding the glorious Christian past of the Western world should be more appreciated than ever, and are certainly worth remembering. Denzinger-Bergoglio has more here…