Christian mercy has the power to break down the barriers of a changing world where people have forgotten the presence of God, Archbishop Jose H. Gómez of Los Angeles has said.

"Mercy is missionary. It is driven by a universal love for humanity, by desire for the salvation and liberation of the human person," he said Aug. 30. "Mercy aims to draw men and women out of their solitude and into an encounter of brotherhood and sisterhood in fellowship with the living God."

Mercy helps transform one's outlook to "to see the world through the merciful eyes of Christ," the archbishop continued.

"When mercy becomes the fundamental outlook and practice of the Christian disciple, we begin to see the outlines of an entirely new culture. A culture of encounter rooted in compassion – especially for the poor and dispossessed, for the lonely and those left discarded on the 'peripheries'," he said, using a common image of Pope Francis.

Archbishop Gómez spoke on the last day of the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy held in Bogota, Colombia Aug. 27-30. The event drew Catholic cardinals, bishops, and other leaders from all the Americas and received a special video message from Pope Francis.

The event was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council.

Archbishop Gómez said news media wrongly depicted Pope Francis' emphasis on mercy as a break with preceding Popes.

"Pope Francis did not 'invent' mercy," he added. Rather, mercy has been at the heart of the Christian proclamation from the start.

"In his dying and rising, Jesus Christ revealed the truth that God is a Father who is rich in mercy," the archbishop said.

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The Pope's image of the Church as a field hospital suggests that God's mercy is "the medicine needed by a humanity that is deeply wounded by modernity."

"Mercy is healing medicine – not only for the physical wounds inflicted by the many wars, injustices and slaveries of body and mind we find in modern society," the archbishop continued. "Mercy also speaks to the existential woundedness of people living in a culture where the memory of God is dimming, where people are no longer able to feel God's presence and activity in the world."

For Archbishop Gómez, the Pope's vision is that of a priest who has spent much time in the confessional, as both a confessor and a penitent. He suggested that Pope Francis' approach was anticipated in St. John Paul II's 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia, or "Rich in Mercy."

Christians must enter into the reality of people who are broken and wounded, who feel abandoned by the Church, or who have grown indifferent to God, the archbishop advised.

In the U.S., he said, "there is a growing coldness of heart, a harsh and fearful rhetoric in our media and politics, a growing inability of ordinary people to empathize with the humanity of others."

He noted the cruel treatment of refugees and undocumented migrants, debates over social programs for the poor and the homeless, and severe punishments and poor conditions for criminals.

Archbishop Gómez suggested secularization and de-Christianization are the dominant realities in the Americas and throughout the West. Wondering whether the Church has come to terms with these threats to Christian institutions and souls, he said they are the "great test" for the Church.

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"I speak from my perspective in the United States. But I think all of us can agree that the elites who govern and shape the direction of our societies are deeply secularized and hostile to religion, religious values and traditional culture," he said.

Where there is no violent persecution, elites use the "raw power of law and public policy" to impose their views and to deny freedoms of those who disagree with them.

The archbishop said Catholicism faces "a powerful and false 'humanism'" that purports to describe human happiness and flourishing under hedonistic, materialistic assumptions, adding that these assumptions are "completely opposed" to revealed truths of Christianity.

The witness of works of mercy is even more important in a society that denies the reality of God and the relevance of faith.

"In a post-Christian society, mercy – lived through works of love – becomes the best 'proof' for God's presence and power," he said. "By our love and tenderness, by our joy, we attract others to the cause of our joy, to the person of Jesus Christ. By our love and tenderness, we make God's own mercy a reality that our neighbors can believe in and give their lives to."

Archbishop Gómez cited the example of St. Junipero Serra as a true missionary of mercy.

"Like the first missionaries to this continent, we need to proclaim the beautiful reality of God's compassion and tenderness," he said. "The glad tidings of God's complete mercy and love - and his desire that everyone might find the salvation he wants for us."