(Editor’s note: On Sept. 7, Archbishop Gomez celebrated the annual Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The following is adapted from his homily.)
Once again we gather this year to celebrate our journeys to this country, our traditions and cultures. We remember the lands where we were born, we share our hopes for the future.
Migration, the great movements of peoples from one country to another, is a sign of our times. Migrations are happening in every part of the world, people leaving their homelands, seeking a better life for their families; often, sadly, they are fleeing violence and poverty.
America has always been exceptional because it has always been a home for peoples of every land. This nation has been a beacon of hope, a refuge for peoples who have no place left to turn. America is a nation of nationalities, a nation of migrants and refugees.
We need to pray for America today. Some say we are divided like never before in our history; that not since the Civil War have things been this bitter, this polarized.
But as we stand at this altar today, we know there are no divisions, no “us” versus “them.” No matter who we are, or where we come from, we are one family.
And we are sinners, all of us in need of God’s mercy and redemption. Once we were strangers, far from God. This is your story, and mine, too. And then God came to save us through Jesus Christ, through his death. Never forget that! Jesus died for you! That’s how much God loves you.
But not just you. Not just me. Jesus Christ died for all of us. And he calls all of us to conversion, to reconciliation.
In the Gospel today, we see how the Pharisees want to divide Jesus from his disciples. They are afraid of his power, scared of his love.
The Pharisees try to use the Law to keep Jesus from feeding his people when they are hungry: “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
But Jesus responds to their fear with love. In this, he is showing us a better way.
Jesus still knows the hungers of his people, our human need for hope and for a home; for peace and security and work for our families.
He reminds us today that he is “the Lord of the Sabbath.” That means he is the Lord of creation and history. That means this world belongs to him. And we belong to him. And he wants each of us to have a place we can call home.
For many years now, I have been saying that immigration is not just a political issue. It is a spiritual issue.
Immigration is not only about borders between nations. It is about barriers in the human heart, barriers that make us fearful of people who do not look like us; barriers that make us see others as less than human, not worth caring about.
In Jesus Christ, every barrier, every wall falls down. There is no Mexican, no Vietnamese, no Korean or Filipino; no Russian or Venezuelan, no migrant or native-born. In Jesus Christ, we are all children of God, made in his image.
And as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mission in this moment, in this challenging time in our country. We need to show our neighbors a better way: the way of Jesus, the way of love.
Jesus is calling us to love those who make themselves our enemies, and to pray for those who would try to cause division in our country.
We can heal what is broken in America. We can restore the sense of mutual trust and empathy; the shared belief in our common humanity; in the dignity of those who are different from us.
Love is the only way forward for America. And we are the ones who must show our nation the way. Hatred can never change the one who hates. Only love can.
Christian love is not weak or soft. Christian love means working for the good of the other. It means talking to those who disagree with us, treating them with kindness and respect, trying to see things through their eyes.
Tomorrow is our Blessed Mother Mary’s birthday! What a beautiful gift it would be if each of us would start to pray the rosary every day — for the healing of our country and for the changing of our hearts, and the hearts of our neighbors.
We can do it! Even just one “Hail Mary” or a “Memorare” every day. Pray it for love, for the courage to love.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother today to intercede for America. May she help our nation to see that we are all children of God, made to live together as brothers and sisters. Amen.