LOS ANGELES — God made men and women for greatness as saints, and the times now call each man and woman to embrace the call to holiness, stated the archbishop of Los Angeles.
In his second pastoral letter, “For Greater Things You Were Born,” Archbishop José Gomez issued a clarion call for Christians to live out the Christian mission in their homes, communities, parishes, schools and ministries in the face of “a deepening secularism and ‘anti-humanistic’ spirit in American life.”
The archbishop explained that truth has “always been at the heart of the Christian religion,” and Christianity’s vision of the human person — “created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny” — is the spiritual foundation for the Americas and the West.
But he said it was “undeniable” that society is progressively becoming “de-Christianized.”
“Our elites — in politics and law, education and the media — are seeking through many means to drive God out of our daily lives and to silence his voice in the human heart,” he said. “But as the reality of God is fading away, the reality of the human person is disappearing, too. We are becoming strangers to our own selves. We no longer know who we are or what is inside us.”
The archbishop said this rejection of God was the root of “many troubles and injustices in our society,” naming the redefinition of marriage and sexuality, abortion and euthanasia, human trafficking, racism, indifference to the suffering of immigrants, epidemics of pornography and addictions, the brokenness of the criminal-justice system, executions and the “violence and deviancy in our popular ‘entertainment.’”
“All of these troubles are indicators of a deeper problem — our society has lost sense of the truth about the precious nature and dignity of the human person,” he said.
He indicated the loss of God has made it impossible for America to answer the questions behind its division and dysfunction, as people seek to live without God and replace him with science, technology and material distractions.
However, the archbishop explained, Christians have a message to propose to secular society: “God made us for greater things!”
“He made us to be saints, to be holy men and women living as children of God in the image of Jesus Christ,” he said, saying it is urgent for Christians “to rediscover these ‘greater things’ for which we are born.”
“In a society where the reality of God and the meaning of the person are now in question, we need to reclaim and re-propose the vision of the human person that we find at the heart of the Gospel,” he said.
Call to Sainthood
Throughout the letter, Archbishop Gomez pointed to the writings of the saints, who spoke about the great dignity God had in mind for every human person, whom God made more glorious than all the wonders of creation. He pointed out that St. Paul said Christianity is the “one true religion of human transformation,” where all Christians are “called to be saints.”
“We are made in the image of the God of all creation,” he said. “All the universe was made for us, and in all of creation, we are the only creature that God wills to share in his own life. This is our greatness.”
The archbishop also taught how sin and holiness have to be understood in terms of love. He described sin as “disordered love” that disfigures the image of God, “as we choose to love ourselves and the things of this created world more than the God who creates and sustains all things.”
“Holiness is simply love, lived totally and completely,” he said. “Holiness is the perfection of charity. This is the same as saying: We are called to live for love.”
Encountering Jesus in Others
Because Christians share a “single existence in Christ,” Archbishop Gomez said that means “in every person we have an encounter with Jesus Christ.”
“The witness of Jesus and the apostles is unmistakable — we cannot claim to love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see.”
He explained, “Every life is precious and must be loved and protected, from conception until natural death,” and because God made every person in his image, each “has a sanctity and dignity that cannot be diminished by illness or disability and cannot be limited by race, age, sex or social condition.”
Society needs to rediscover the “authentic meaning of marriage,” he said, pointing out that the human family is born from the union of husband and wife, and society is fundamentally a “family of families.”
But he added that society also needs to “rediscover the authentic meaning of friendship,” which is also illustrated by the lives of the saints.
“True friendship is a spiritual fellowship, a communion of the will and the mind that is rooted in a disinterested, unselfish love for the other,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez pointed to Sts. Basil and Gregory of Nazianzen, who described their friendship as: “It seemed as if we had one soul in two bodies.”
“And this is what all of us can hope for in our relationships with persons of the same or the opposite sex,” he said. “Such intimate friendship is also the promise that husbands and wives should strive for in their marital relationships.”
Practical Plan for Holiness
The archbishop emphasized that holiness is the call of every human person in every stage of life.
“I urge you: Do not be afraid of holiness! God knows everything about us. And he calls us anyway. This is the mystery of his plan of love,” he said.
He outlined a practical plan for holiness that every Christian could adopt:
- placing oneself in the presence of God each day, saying a simple prayer in the morning and the evening;
- making time every day for prayer;
- read a passage from the Gospels every day using the technique of lectio divina (prayerful reading of Scripture);
- meeting Christ as often as one can in the Eucharist, both through Eucharistic adoration and going to Mass during weekdays;
- making a daily examination of conscience and going to confession regularly; and
- practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, encountering the Lord “through serving others, especially the poor, the lonely and the vulnerable.”
“Love is the way we imitate Christ,” he said.
He urged people to embrace the beatitudes and the theological and cardinal virtues, because they “reveal the face of Christ, and they are the definition of the good life, the happiness that God intends for us.”
Jesus is the model of holiness, Archbishop Gomez said, and God calls every person to the “adventure” of holiness.
Trust the Blessed Mother
The Blessed Mother, he added, revealed herself to the peoples of the Americas through St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac. He said Christians should ask her to help them make “Jesus the true program for the liberation and transformation of our lives.”
“May she intercede for us, that we might have the strength and wisdom to continue her mission of making the American continent a new world of faith, inspired by a new Christian humanism, rooted in God’s beautiful plan for the human person as his masterpiece and the glory of his creation,” he said. “And let us pray that Our Blessed Mother may help us all to know the greater things for which we are born.”
Read the archbishop’s letter: “For Greater Things You Were Born.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff reporter.