Deirdre CORNELL. Jesus Was A Migrant. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2014. pp. 133. $20.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-6269-8040-2. Reviewed by Kyle M. NICHOLAS, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA 98119
It is difficult to begin reviewing a book that has had so much life poured into it; a book that reads like a devotional and contains years of heartbreak and pain along with great joy and celebration. Deirdre Cornell and her husband “have been involved in advocacy for migrants and immigrants for twenty years” (125). In light of her life’s work thus far, Cornell states that the purpose of the present volume “is to quicken our desire to glimpse the face of the Lord in the lives of migrants. For what love is not born of desire” (12-13)? The question is then whether she accomplishes this task.
The book is a series of short meditations tied together by the theme of not only caring for the migrant, but also uncovering the migrancy that so deeply constitutes the lives of the people of God. The meditations are composed of a seamless weaving of personal narratives and the practices of the Christian faith: Susana and Pedro and Advent (chapter five), La Noche Buena in a trailer park (chapter six) and Cornell’s grandmother and the rosary (chapter nine) are just a few examples to be found among her deep meditations.
As Cornell narrates stories of tragic loss, deportation, and isolation, one is also able to glimpse the strongest aspect of her storytelling: Cornell uncovers care for the migrant on nearly every page of the scriptures. Through the Exodus, the exile, the birth narrative, and other scriptural voices she is able to plot the plight of those she has served (and those who have served her) onto God’s story through solid biblical scholarship and an obvious passion for the text.
Cornell makes it explicit that her goal is to “quicken our desire to glimpse the face of the Lord in the lives of migrants.” This desire is shaped and formed through the tool of story: stories of migrants and of God. This being said, any reader coming to the text expecting a debate on immigration policy will surely be disappointed. Cornell alludes now and then to the legal aspects of the issue (i.e. 129-130), but stays true to her vision of shaping desire. This book develops a convincing case that the plight of the migrant is written right onto God’s heart and God’s actions in history. Cornell surely does help her readers to desire God in the face of the migrant.