Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe 2016

As we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this Monday (December 12th), I wholeheartedly join my brothers in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in our call for a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity with our immigrant families. I am deeply grateful to our Conference President and Vice President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and our own Archbishop José Gomez, for their leadership in this important effort for the migrant communities in our country, whose fears and challenges in these troubling days cry out for our prayers and our action on their behalf.

I was recently privileged to share some impressions on the difficulties facing the immigrants among us in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper. Since the article was published in Italian, the following is my original draft in English.

On her feast and always, may America’s presence of Mary, our Mother Guadalupe, guide and help our Church as week seek to serve her children. ¡Virgen de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros!

_____________

“The American Dream”

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop-emeritus of Los Angeles

Over recent days, the United States Senate heard the moving story of a young man named Rey Piñeda.  Born in Mexico, Rey came with his family to the United States at age 2. Because of his status as an undocumented immigrant, he was prevented from fulfilling his hopes for an education and pursuing his life’s ideals, until the 2012 introduction of the national Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which has provided him and close to 770,000 other young people protection from deportation and allowing them authorization to work.

While President-elect Donald J. Trump has pledged to implement several severe immigration policies, including the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, the most pressing and imminent challenge his incoming Administration presents on this critical issue is its promise to rescind the DACA program.

Fr. Rey Piñeda
Recently ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and assigned as a parochial vicar at its Cathedral of Christ the King, for Fr. Rey Piñeda, the closing of DACA would likely mean the end his ability to serve, forcing him and thousands of others to return to “the shadows,” where our undocumented sisters and brothers live in fear of a “knock at the door” taking them away from their homes, their families and life as they know it, most of them never to return.

Known as the “DREAMers,” these young people in their teens and 20s were brought to the U.S. by their parents as young children, unaware of any laws or documents, only knowing and seeking to be with their families.  More than being bright and talented contributors to this nation, they are our future leaders, even in the Church: even today, they are already Americans in everything but citizenship.

According to a study by the Center for Migration Studies of New York, the DREAMers are deeply embedded in U.S. society.  Eighty-five percent have lived in the United States for ten years or more.  Ninety-three percent have at least a high school degree, with forty-three percent having attended college or graduated from college.  Eighty-nine percent are employed – and thus pay taxes – while ninety-one percent speak English very well or exclusively.

To remove protections from this group is not only mean-spirited, but a foolish act of self-sabotage to both the national interest and the values which have always made this country great.  Today, as it has been since our nation’s founding, the promise and common good of this nation is best served when we support hard-working, intelligent young people, and give them the means to flourish.  It is in this tradition that preserving DACA is our only sane, moral and truly American way forward.

Unlike the Border wall and several other aspects of his immigration proposals, upon the moment he assumes office next month, President-elect Trump will be able to eliminate the DACA program with the stroke of a pen.  He will, however, find that removing these young people will not be so easy.  I believe that the American people will not allow it, both in terms of public opinion and in active resistance.

In other words, I believe Americans will not cooperate with Mr. Trump's Administration on implementing mass deportations, most especially the deportation of young immigrants.  These DREAMers are now part of our social fabric—we see them everyday in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  They have forged bonds with U.S. citizens who know them as people, not a "status" or piece of paperwork.  They are contributing their energies to this country, and have fought for their God-given rights and their place at our national table.  Some serve in the U.S. military, others in education or health-care, yet regardless of their chosen profession, the DREAMers show us that the “American dream” is alive and well in their hands.

Should President-elect Trump move to eliminate DACA, calls have already emerged for churches and communities to protect them by not cooperating with immigration enforcement and by providing sanctuary for those likely to be affected.  I add my voice to that call, and I am particularly gratified to be joined by a growing number of my brother bishops, as well as nearly 100 of the presidents of our nation’s Catholic colleges and universities, who have spoken up in support of these sisters and brothers of ours.

Pope Francis captures the spirit and heart of what we seek to say. “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,” he wrote in 2014.  “They are children, women, and men who leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and being, but above all being more.”

Still closer to home, on his visit last year to our nation’s very birthplace at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Holy Father expressed his “particular affection” for the U.S.’ latest generation of new arrivals, urging them to “not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face.

“You bring many gifts to your new nation,” the Pope told today's migrants among us, encouraging them to “never be ashamed of your traditions… which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

After an election campaign which has exposed bitter divides among our people and, sadly, unearthed sicknesses in our society that many thought were left in the past, advocating for policies like DACA and those it benefits is just one part of the challenge we face as a Church.

On one side, the fear and anxiety which have gripped our immigrant communities in these days isn’t simply real, but currently running as deep as many of us who serve among them have ever seen.  Even more, however, as citizens committed to the common good and pastors who seek to serve and imitate the Lord Jesus, one of the harrowing lessons this campaign season has shown us is the degree to which many people who profess to be Christian, and even Catholic, have succumbed to the “throwaway culture,” both in our national discourse and in the policies they deemed acceptable to support.

While it is true that the current political environment of the U.S. has made many of our faithful feel “politically homeless,” I fear that many Christians, among them more than a few Catholics, have somehow become misled about the demands of the Gospel regarding how we treat our neighbor, or how we answer the very question of “Who is our neighbor?”  Much as we have sought to be prophetic witnesses to Christ and His teaching in and out of season, the new political reality places a particular burden upon our ministry as shepherds: in word and example, to express ever more powerfully to our people that the commission to serve “the least of these” is not an ideological proposal that one may see as disposable but, as Pope Francis has so frequently described it, “the protocol by which we,” as Christians, “will be judged.”

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  The threat of deporting young people to a country they do not know, or the prospect that the Church’s efforts on behalf of immigrants could face civil intimidation or attempts at closure, raise the specter of an injustice that would threaten all of us, flying in the face of fairness and human decency, not to mention the very same Gospel which inspired Dr King’s movement for civil rights.  Even the possibility of these dangers would gravely weaken our communities and diminish us as a nation.  In these days, then, let us pray for the courage, wisdom and fidelity to serve our moment’s “suffering flesh of Christ” among us, in the confident faith that what we do for them, we have done for Him.

Later this month, our immigrant families will gather again at the feet of their beloved Mother as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  May la Virgen Morena, Patroness of this one American land, intercede for her children and our entire society, that our service and witness on behalf of her Son’s “least ones” may bring about a new spirit of reconciliation, liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MOTHER TERESA of CALCUTTA TO BECOME SAINT

On Sunday, September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be placed in the Church's official Book of Saints.

However, for all of us around the world, she has been a "saint" for many decades.
 Her willingness to go out onto the streets of Calcutta and to bring home to her convert the aged, the dying, the gravely ill, people "thrown away" by society.

She always explained so simply:  "There is no mystery to what my Sisters and I do.  We go out onto the streets, and see in the faces of the miserable and destitute, the face of Jesus.  We just pick up Jesus and take him home with us."

Her heroic following of Jesus in the Gospels is the foundation of her life and ministry.  Like Jesus, though, she knew how important it was to spend time in prayer with the Father.  That's why she and her Community devote many hours each day in prayer.  Prayer keeps us linked to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The first members of her Missionaries of Charity we received in Los Angeles were her Brothers.  Their ministry was across downtown Los Angeles, and they reached out to young adults who were on the streets.  Many were undocumented, others were suffering with addictions, still others were abandoned.  They saw the face of Jesus in each one, and following Mother's guidance and witness, they offered to serve them.

The second group of her Missionaries were her active Sisters.  They established their ministry in a former convent in Lynwood, and focused their ministry upon single mothers with young children, pregnant women on the streets, those most in need.

The third group were her Contemplative Sisters who live in a small house in Alhambra, and devote themselves to praying for the spiritual and pastoral success of all the works of their apostolates around the world, as well as our apostolates here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

After the death of Mother Teresa, I wrote to Pope John Paul II to ask him to begin the process towards canonization without waiting the customary five years following death.  This was granted, and her path towards the Church's official recognition that she lived out her life with heroic virtue was assured.

May St. Mother Teresa intercede for each one of us, and help us to see the face of Jesus in each other.  And the more disfigured the face, the clearer the face of Jesus!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHE PIERRE: A GIFT FROM POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Christophe Pierre to serve as the next Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and through this appointment Pope Francis continues to demonstrate his care and concern for the Church in our country.

Archbishop Pierre is a native of France, and as a young priest, attended the Academy in Rome which trains priests to serve in the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 1995, Father Pierre was appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, and ordained as Archbishop.  His first posting to this country, the poorest in the western hemisphere, came at a time of great political unrest in Haiti.  There was great tension and conflict between the president and the military, and the United Nations had to intervene to help establish order.

This first posting to such a poor and desperate nation provided Archbishop Pierre with the opportunity to serve some of the poorest people in the world, and to help guide the Church in its efforts to bring a sense of dignity and human rights to the population.  This posting helped Archbishop Pierre understand the plight of desperate peoples living in abject poverty, and to bring the Church's influence to assist them.

In 1999 Archbishop Pierre was sent to Uganda, Africa, to serve as Apostolic Nuncio to that country.  Here he encountered another poor and embattled country.  For eight years, Archbishop Pierre assisted the Church deal with civil war, the brutal Lord's Resistance Army terrorist group, and the massive displacement of peoples because of the unrest and attacks upon people  in their villages.  Poverty, refugees, hunger, and terror were the order of the day during his tenure in this country.

Then, in 2007 Archbishop Pierre was assigned as the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, our neighbor to the south.  During his nine years in that post he experienced the upheaval created by gangs and cartels involved in human trafficking and narcotics trafficking.  He saw first-hand poverty, the lack of adequate employment, and the flow of immigrants and refugees from neighboring countries to the south into Mexico, and then the trans-migration of so many into the United States to the north.

He surely understood the plight of families, single people, and unaccompanied minors fleeing every form of terror, cartel atrocities, drugs, and hopelessness--all people seeking safety, dignity, and some hope for a better future.

During the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico in February of this year, it was Archbishop Pierre who helped shape the itinerary so that Pope Francis would visit both borders:  Chiapas in the south bordering Guatemala, and Ciudad Juarez in the north bordering the United States.  Pope Francis celebrated Mass along both borders.

Archbishop Pierre also made certain that Pope Francis would celebrate Mass some distance outside Mexico City in the gritty community of Ecatepec--where hundreds of thousands live in abject poverty.  Pope Francis also visited Morelia in the very heart of a Mexican State very much in the grip of the drug cartels, and where so many people have been murdered and disappeared.

Pope Francis has sent us a new Nuncio whose heart, soul, and ministry have been shaped by Jesus Christ in his outreach to those on the outskirts of society.  I cannot imagine our receiving a new Nuncio whose life and ministry more reflects the concerns and commitment of Pope Francis himself.

In my opinion, Pope Francis has sent into our midst a Nuncio who will both proclaim and demonstrate the message of Jesus, the Good Shepherd,  towards the most vulnerable and needy in our midst, echoing the ministry of Pope Francis in our midst.

We are truly blessed with this appointment, and may God give him many blessed years among us!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

ON THE BORDER WITH OUR UNDOCUMENTED BROTHERS & SISTERS

ON THE BORDER WITH OUR UNDOCUMENTED
BROTHERS and SISTERS

Cardinal Roger Mahony
February 18, 2016


AT THE US-MEXICO BORDER, EL PASO – When the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico reached its close with his February 17th Mass at Ciudad Juarez, I could’ve had the privilege to cross the border and concelebrate with him.  Instead, however, I chose to remain on the Texas side and take part in this historic “liturgy of two nations” with a large number of undocumented people who could not legally cross over to join our Holy Father, but who were able to witness the moment as the first son of immigrants to become Bishop of Rome stretched his hand over the Rio Grande to bless them on US soil.  It was an overwhelming experience!
But before that memorable Wednesday afternoon, I was blessed to spend time with a large number of young people who were present as “unaccompanied minors” – a nice way of saying that they had endured weeks and months of anguish, attacks, deprivations, and threats to reach our country.  I met with about 40 of them in El Paso before the Pope arrived.  The majority were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 
These were young men, 16 to 22 years old, but they all looked like children.  When I asked them to tell me their stories, they told me of how they had been sent on their journeys alone by their parents, because the options for them back home were so bleak.  If they didn’t take the risk to seek a new life elsewhere, they said that all of them would have been forced into criminal gangs in one way or the other, and they would have been made to kill and maim others for the survival of the gang. 
It’s frightening when the only future ahead of you would be to capitulate to the horror and the treachery of lawlessness in your homeland.  Instead, the parents of these men were strong enough to force them to leave behind everything they knew, and to travel al norte” – to the north – in the hope of something better.  At great sacrifice and with a lot of money – money they couldn’t afford – they sent their sons and daughters across the the only possible route to the US: the border between Guatemala and Mexico. 
It was a moving grace to meet with these courageous young people, to come to know them, and to listen to their stories.  The only way they survived traveling north through Mexico was meeting one or two others on the same journey.  As they described it, they became compadres brothers and sisters on a common journey – and endured incredible obstacles: drug lords controlled most of the territory they had to travel, and they were attacked, threatened, and humiliated every mile of the trip – a journey of many weeks.  Often, and in more ways than one, they faced death, whether from trying to jump onto moving trains or from a lack of food and water.  But the most frequent, and painful, reason why their lives were in danger was the lack of anyone who cared for them.
These men arrived at our border not as criminals, but as desperate souls and children of God.  All they came seeking was a future free from the crime, injustice, and slavery of being pawns in an empire of what Pope Francis calls “modern slavery”: the twin evils of drug and human trafficking which are destroying countless lives and communities in Central America. 
In the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that “whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” and by that standard we will be judged.  Today, what we do for these men and those like them is what we do for the Lord himself.
It was a special grace to be with these sisters and brothers of ours on the border, within eyesight of the Pope’s final Mass in Mexico.  We may have been physically divided from Juarez by the pathetic Rio Grande, guarded by the Border Patrol officers everywhere around, but in something no human obstacle can restrict – the Eucharist and the love of Christ – we were one.
When Pope Francis walked up the ramp to the shrine and prayed in grief for those who have attempted to better their lives who have crossed the border, these young men could only view the scene through fencing.  A photo tells the story – the exclusion and distance it represents is powerful.  It is the sign and story of what the Holy Father has termed “a globalization of indifference.”
But at the very same moment, another picture told of the hope that can overcome it: three of these men, offering a salute and exchange of fraternity from the North to the South.  In this, we see the Pope’s constant reminder that all of us are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and that – both as a church and society – as he said during his US visit last year, the mission the Lord entrusts to us is “is not about building walls, but about breaking them down.”

I returned to Los Angles with a renewed enthusiasm to walk the journey of peace, fraternity, and well-being for all of our brothers and sisters who have endured, and are now enduring, the fences that separate us.  May the Lord, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, bless and strengthen us in our task.






Friday, November 6, 2015

Solemnidad de todos los Santos

¿Quiénes de nosotros quieremos llegar a ser santos? ¿Sabían ustedes que a través de nuestro bautizo hemos sido llamados hacer santos? ¡No es difícil! Solamente es necesario tener una entrega a Jesucristo para caminar con Jesús!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

ANNIVERSARIES MASS HOMILY--Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels




“Called to Serve as an Unprofitable Servant”

Homily:  Sunday, November 1, 2015


Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles



Jesus said, “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?  Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat.  Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.  You may eat and drink when I am finished’?  Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?  So should it be with you.  When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”  [Luke 17:7—10]  


            The Gospel which we just heard is one of my favorites primarily because it has spoken to me so powerfully both as I approached official retirement, and after retiring. 
            Picture in your imagination this servant who has just come in after spending a long and tiring day out in the hot sun tending the farm for his master.  Just what was he doing?  What we are all called to do as laborers in the field:  plowing the fields for a good harvest, or tending the sheep and other animals.  Both are also pastoral activities for us as priests:  plowing the fields, sowing the seeds of faith, cultivating the small plants as they grow in the life of Jesus, weeding the rows from sin and evil.  A marvelous description of what we are called to do in our daily ministry!
            And tending the flocks:  leading the flock to green pastures, finding springs for them to drink, watching over them so that wild animals do not snatch them, looking out for injured or lame sheep, and protecting them—even with our lives.
            Now picture the servant coming back to the main house dirty, tired, hot, and worn out.  He is ready for a good bath, a cool drink, and a hot meal.  He has deserved it.  But Jesus’ story tells us something different.  The servant’s day is not done.  True, his field work is done, but he is called to shift from outside work to indoor work—preparing a meal and drink for his master.  “Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.”  This is not some undue burden; rather, it’s expected of him.  His life is one of service 24/7, as we would say today.
            And only after those duties are completed, does he get to wind down:  “You may eat and drink when I am finished.”  Jesus then adds quite pointedly:  “Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?  So should it be with you.  When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
            That’s how I long to be remembered— as an unprofitable servant.  And it is in reality how I actually am remembered by many—a grace for which I give thanks to God.
            When Archbishop José Gomez became our active Archbishop on March 1, 2011, I formally completed my years of toil in the fields and with the flock, and I am accepting God’s invitation to live out my remaining years as his unprofitable servant.
            Our American culture which focuses on “me” and “mine,” a debilitating narcissism that constantly looks inward and not outwards towards others, would compel me and others in priestly ministry to point with pride to our “legacies and our accomplishments.”  But we who are chosen to be men and women in total and self-giving service to our people don’t “do legacies.”  I prefer the image of the servant in the Gospel; I am finishing up one phase of God’s call in my life, and moving on to the next.  Not as a laureate, but as a weak shepherd who happens to want to serve God’s mystery, knowing, as one spiritual writer once put it: “We serve a mystery, and serve it poorly”.
            The true servant of Jesus flees from honors, from recognition, from the absurdity of legacies.  Our goal is to follow Jesus who calls us in ways far different from the values of the world; in Jesus’ words:  “Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28], and “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” [Matthew 16:24].  We don’t find “legacies” in those challenging words or images of Jesus.
            I have often wondered what the servant thought about when it was finally time for him to relax and to have his supper.  I suspect that being a committed servant, he mentally re-traced his day to see which of his work activities were productive, and where he made mistakes—and how to improve tomorrow.
            As I reflect back on my own years of ministry, those words of Jesus resonate so deeply within me:  “…say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.’”  My own failures, sins, and mistakes loom high on the horizon over the span of years, and I feel the helplessness of knowing I can’t turn back the clock and correct them.  While my failures and mistakes are far too many to count, two dark and foreboding clouds hover in the skies above me, and there is nothing I can do to dispel them; they will haunt me until the end of my earthly journey. 
            The first dark cloud was the difficult and impossible clash in the San Joaquin Valley between the farmers and the farmworkers.  Back in the 1960s farmworkers began organizing themselves in order to receive better wages, to improve their working conditions, and to negotiate for benefits which so many other workers took for granted.  All of my efforts to try to bring about reconciliation among the parties brought little success.  Those were frustrating and challenging years for me as I watched my meager efforts dissolve month after month, year after year. 
It is hard for me to re-visit that period of time from 1965 to 1980.  My soul keeps raising the “what if” questions:  what if I had found better paths to bring together growers and workers to recognize the rights of each other?  What if I had been a stronger voice on behalf of the farmworkers in order to help increase their salaries and benefits?  What if I had dared taking more risks in order to be a better instrument of God’s peace and justice?
Instead, I now look back on those years, realizing that any progress was far outdistanced by the paltry efforts which I brought to assist the thousands of poor farmworkers and their families living such difficult and tragic lives.
            The second black and ominous cloud was the scourge of the clergy sexual misconduct of minors.  This dreadful experience proved yet again the fact that I was and remain an unprofitable servant.    
I don’t recall ever hearing about any such clergy misconduct cases during my years in the Diocese of Fresno, 1962 to 1980; in the Diocese of Stockton, I encountered three cases in the year before being named to Los Angeles.  I was stunned to learn that any priest could possibly harm children and youth in this dreadful manner. 
            From 1986 on, however, this unthinkable evil would gradually begin to rise from the murky darkness.  And it would seem to never end.  My early efforts failed to grasp the depth and extent of this sinfulness, and I searched in vain for answers and how best to proceed.  I did not understand how deeply victims of sexual abuse were permanently afflicted; that would only emerge in later years.  Almost daily I proved to be unequal to the task.
            It was not until the early 1990s that several things became clearer:  anyone in ministry who had been credibly found to abuse a minor could never return to ministry; victims needed urgent and continuing pastoral care for years to come; all of our Church apostolates needed to be fully vigilant against allowing anyone to be with children and youth who could possibly be a danger to them.
            But it was those early years of the scandal which are the most haunting for me since my response was not fully that of an apostle of Jesus Christ.  How I wish I could return to those years with today’s understandings and undo all of my mistakes and failures.
             “We have done what we were obliged to do.”  Jesus’ words don’t mean that we have done everything correctly, promptly, and with great wisdom.  Rather, in my case I believe that I did my best to carry out what I was truly obliged to do, and far too often came up very short.  That’s how it is with us humans, fragile vessels of God’s grace.
            But living out my life as an unprofitable servant doesn’t mean there is no value to be found there.  Today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews captures well the attitude which must be in all who are disciples of Jesus:  we continue forward as disciples and as workers in the Lord’s fields “while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”  Everyone is called to lift their eyes from their many mistakes and errors, and keep their focus on the face of Jesus.
            While I have suffered a great deal from my numerous mistakes and omissions, still I don’t meet the high standard in Hebrews:  “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  That’s true:  my name and reputation have been under attack over the years now—as befits a fallible minister of Christ’s grace—but so far, I have been spared shedding my blood for Jesus.
            I am reminded that discipline is one tool which the Master uses to correct the unprofitable servant; and discipline can lead to humility, a virtue which becomes a strong anchor for servants who are yet called by Jesus to become his friends.   St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises discusses our call to imitate the humility of Jesus who emptied himself of God’s glory and took up our human nature.  But Ignatius points out that sometimes Jesus calls us to the deeper kind of humility—humiliation.  It has become ever clearer in my own life journey that public humiliation often becomes an essential aspect of living as a follower of Jesus.  This is the prayer which Ignatius places on our reluctant lips: 
“I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world.  So Christ was treated before me.” [No. 167]
            Flawed servants of Jesus are not pessimists nor fatalists.  Rather, we must be people of the joy, hope, and mercy of Jesus Christ as we live out our lives and our ministry.   We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our hearts on the call of Isaiah in our first Scripture:  “The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, … to comfort all who mourn;”  [Isaiah 61:1-3]
            And we unprofitable servants of Jesus are in good company:  moving among the sick, the abandoned, the struggling, the outcasts, the undocumented, the abused, and the maligned.  That’s where we belong.
            Not everyone is called to serve Jesus as an unprofitable servant.  I feel blessed to be included in that group, and each day in retirement I am finding new and ever more exciting ways to be of service to the Lord staying on the periphery and in the shadows with those who feel the weight and burdens of being on the margins—but also, with those most loved by Jesus.    
            Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, a feast-day made more real for us with our Cathedral’s 25 beautiful tapestries featuring 125 men and women who lived out their discipleship with Jesus in heroic fashion.  My personal patron saint, St. Joseph, is the first one in this tapestry on this wall.  If there was ever a saint whose life was that of a humble servant, it was Joseph.  He lived out his life in total obedience to God’s will.  We see him confront several difficult challenges in that life—taking in marriage an unwed mother; fleeing into Egypt when his family is under a death sentence; moving to a new town to start all over again.  No recorded words remain; no description of his years at Nazareth.  No recounting of his death and burial.  Joseph simply fades from the pages of salvation history.  Like a devoted servant.
            As we look about these tapestries, we can easily recall many more examples of men and women whose lives and ministries were filled with mistakes, opposition, ridicule, rejection, personal humiliation, suffering, torture, and death.  A good number of them in their own day would surely have considered themselves unprofitable servants.
            Today I am grateful to God for this special vocation, but I am also grateful to my brother Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and lay ministers and wonderful people who have accepted me despite my failings, and who have sustained me through their prayers and support along the journey towards the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
            I earnestly request your continuing prayers for me and for all of those gathered here this afternoon.  Each one of you has shared our faith journeys together especially in this portion of the Lord’s Vineyard.  
            When it’s your time to come in from the fields of active ministry, hopefully you, too, will find the inner peace and joy I have experienced.  Remember, the same Jesus who told us to say, to proclaim, to shout:  “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do,” also lovingly says to us, as he did to his disciples, “ I no longer call you servants but my friends and companions.”


Thursday, September 24, 2015

POPE FRANCIS ON IMMIGRANTS & REFUGEES

Today in Washington DC Pope Francis spoke to the U.S. Congress with a brilliant and uplifting Address.  Read it in its entirety to capture the depth and the inspiration of his sentiments and words.
Please find below excerpts from his heart-felt appeal to all of us to open our hearts and lives to our immigrant brothers and sisters, especially those living among us in the USA.  In addition, he urged us to continue to be a nation which continues to assist the world's millions of refugees in their escape from terrorism, conflict, hunger, and fear.  His words:
"In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom.  We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.  I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.  Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.  For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation.  
Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.  Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.  We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us.  Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best.  I am confident that we can do this.
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War.  This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions.  On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities.  Is this not what we want for our own children?  
We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.  To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.  We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.  Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).
This Rule points us in a clear direction.  Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.  Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.  Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.  In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.  The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.  The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."

[View the Pope's entire Address to Congress:   http://news.va/ ]