Drawing on Sunday's reading about Abraham's hospitality to his three visitors, Archbishop José Gomez taught during a Mass in recognition of immigrants that “God comes to us in the person of the stranger.”
“Abraham, in the first reading, receives the strangers with an open heart… Abraham doesn’t know that these three visitors who come to his tent in the heat of the day are from God. But he does know that every person is made in the image and likeness of God,” the Los Angeles archbishop preached during his July 21 homily.
“For Judaism, hospitality and care for the stranger are a sacred duty. The same thing is true for Christianity. In the letters of the apostles we read: 'Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have uknowingly entertained angels.'”
The Mass, held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, was said in recognition of all immigrants and in support of immigration reform that is both just and compassionate. It was attended by more than 3,000 people, including Congressmen and Calif. state legislators.
The homily was given partially in English, partially in Spanish.
Archbishop Gomez thanked those involved in bringing justice to the American immigration system, and added that there are times for both politics and prayer, but that “prayer should always come first, before our political action.”
He encouraged Catholics to act as “a people who know the truth – that we are all God’s children.”
“We don’t get our dignity from having the proper documents or the right paperwork. Our human dignity comes from God. “
The archbishop noted that this understanding of the dignity of the human person, the recognition that “all men and women are created by God – with equal dignity, rights and freedom” is a vital part of the United State’s heritage.
“Our country has always been a nation of immigrants,” the Archbishop said in Spanish, adding that “America has always made room for people from many cultures, speaking different languages, with different beliefs, customs and traditions.”
He described this role the United States has played as “a golden door that opens for those searching for a better life for their families.”
“That’s what we’re working for in our politics. That’s what we’re praying for today.“
He also reminded the faithful that the immigration debate is “about souls not statistics,” but about the family, about the human person.
“We are talking about mothers and fathers who without warning won’t be coming home for dinner tonight, who may never see their families again,” Archbishop Gomez entreated.
The topic of immigration is also about Christ, Archbishop Gomez said. Pointing to the day’s Gospel reading on Mary and Martha, the archbishop noted that through reflection on the scriptures “we are aware that in his human life Jesus was always a stranger. “
“Jesus made himself a stranger for us,” the archbishop explained, to “teach us how to love our neighbor.”
“He taught us to meet Him – to find God in the poor, prisoners, immigrants. Because they are the weakest in society. Because they are the most in need of our protection and our care.”
“Jesus said God will judge us by our love for him in the least of our brothers and sisters. So immigration is not only a matter of politics,” Archbishop Gomez said. “It’s a matter of our relationship with God.”