Archbishop Gomez: American missionaries are the overlooked US founders

The statue of Bl Junipero Serra at the Mission San Miguel in California Credit Ken Figlioli via Flickr CC BY SA 20 CNA 1 22 15 The statue of Bl. Junipero Serra at the Mission San Miguel in California. | Ken Figlioli via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

During the annual Red Mass marking a new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said that early American missionaries should be honored among the founding fathers of the United States.

"These missionaries – together with the colonists and the statesmen who came later – they laid the spiritual and intellectual groundwork for a nation that remains unique in human history," Gomez told lawyers and judges during his homily at the 65th Red Mass.  

"A nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs."

The Red Mass is celebrated on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, which marks the beginning of the Supreme Court's annual term. The liturgy is held at St. Matthew the Apostle Church in Washington D.C., and is meant to invoke God's blessing on elected officials and members of the justice system.

Reflecting on the 5 million Catholics speaking 40 different languages in the L.A. Archdiocese, Gomez discussed current immigration issues and touched on the spiritual foundations laid by Franciscan missionaries.

He gave the example of the recently canonized St. Junipero Serra, whom he called a champion for indigenous people. The Franciscan saint had written a "bill of rights" to protect the natives when the colonial government refused to acknowledge their full dignity, he said.  

"Remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America's first beginnings were not political. America's first beginnings were spiritual."

The archbishop reflected on the birth of the Church at Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the "mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God."

"In God's eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers! All of us are family. When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children – sons and daughters made in his image."

"The American dream is still a work in progress," Gomez said, noting that "we have come a long way" from "the original sins of slavery and the cruel mistreatment of native peoples."

"But we have not come nearly far enough," he said. "America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God." he added.  

The archbishop explained that God gives the power of forgiveness, calling it "the greatest power that men and women possess under heaven. If only we could understand that! Because when we forgive, we are imitating Jesus Christ."

Gomez said that forgiveness fosters "what we need in America today – a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity."

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