This is the end of “National Migration Week” (Jan. 6-12). And this year, my brother bishops and I in the United States are stressing the urgent need for comprehensive reforms that would end deportation policies that break up families and that would offer illegal immigrants a path to make restitution and become citizens.
It is long past time for our nation to address this issue. So I urge you to become involved in the debates in these coming weeks. As the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse local Church in the country, our Church here in Los Angeles has an important role to play in this national conversation.
Because our Church in Los Angeles is an “icon.” It is a sign of God’s plan for his Kingdom and his Church – which is to be one family of God that joins families of many colors, races, nationalities and languages.
But our local Church is also a sign of the promise of America – which is meant to be one nation under God and a light of freedom, hope and welcome for peoples of all nations.
That is why one of my five pastoral priorities for the years ahead is to promote our sense of unity as one family of God. I really believe that in God’s Providence, we are meant to be an example to our nation, and also a model of the Church’s universal nature and mission.
The word “catholic,” as we know, means “universal” or literally, “embracing the whole universe.”
As we have heard throughout this Christmas season, Jesus came as a “Son of David.” That is, he came as a child of the Jewish people. But at the same time, he came as the “Son of Man,” as a child of all humanity.
His coming this way is a sign of his Church and his Kingdom. And it is a sign for our own identity as Catholics. We are all children of some people or another. We are Filipinos or Salvadorans or Mexicans or Irish. But no matter where we come from, in Jesus Christ we are made children of God and brothers and sisters as one family in his Catholic Church.
Jesus gave to his Church the mission to proclaim this good news to everyone and to make this beautiful vision of God a reality in our world – beginning in every human heart.
That’s still the mission of our Church and that’s still a call to conversion for each one of us. That’s the challenge of the new evangelization in a world that has become “globalized.” But before anything else, this Gospel is a challenge to our conscience.
We are called to break down every barrier, whether it comes from our pride or racism or fear, that keeps us from loving one another as brothers and sisters.
In a practical way, for us that means we can’t stay “stuck” in our own communities. We can’t look at ourselves as “Filipino Catholics” or “Hispanic Catholics” or Catholics from this or that neighborhood community. Our ethnic and cultural identities are important to who we are and who God wants us to be. But our identity in faith calls us to be much more than what we are by blood.
We need to remember always that line from the start of St. John’s Gospel: “To all who … believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God – who were born, not of blood … but of God.”
To be Catholic means understanding ourselves as sons and daughters – not only of our earthly parents, but of God. Our Catholic faith requires us to reach out beyond our boundaries. Beyond our own backgrounds and our own customary ways of doing things.
That’s what makes our Catholic Church so beautiful. We all have so much to share with our brothers and sisters and so much we can learn from them.
We need to make this process of sharing and learning a priority and a habit in our parishes and in our Archdiocesan ministries. Simple gestures can go a long way. Let’s look for ways to pray and worship with Catholics of different backgrounds and neighborhoods. Let’s learn about one another’s saints and customs.
So let’s pray for one another and for our country this week. Let’s ask for the grace to get to know people better and to love them as brothers and sisters.
And let us ask our Mother Mary to help us to realize that the love we are called to as Catholics is a love that has no borders.
Reprinted with permission from the Tidings, official newspaper for the archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Most Rev. José H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, California.