Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register. He covered Pope Francis’s historic visit to the United States in 2015, and to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 2014. He has reported on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis, including from Jordan and Lebanon on an Egan Fellowship from Catholic Relief Services. Before coming on board the Register in 2013, he was a freelance writer, reporting for Catholic media outlets as the Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a graduate of the National Journalism Center and earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College, where he co-founded the student newspaper, The Rambler, and served as its editor. He comes originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
Archbishop José Gomez delivered the following homily at the Requiem Mass for the Unborn at his cathedral, following the OneLife LA pro-life celebration held on Jan. 21 in Los Angeles's Exposition Park. (See the Register's coverage.) The Archbishop in his homily reminded Catholics that they were the light of the world, and because they have the light of Jesus Christ, "we can overcome the shadows of death in our country."
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is a beautiful day, and I want to welcome you all to this celebration.
As many of you know, we began the day at Exposition Park for OneLife LA, our annual family festival in praise of human life and human dignity. It was a great day, inspiring.
And we continue our reflections on human life tonight with this ceremony of remembrance.
In the Gospel tonight we heard these words of prophecy — the same words that we heard in our first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah:
“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.”
This is a prophecy of hope, of new beginning. It tells us that Jesus is the true light that is coming into the world, and coming into our lives. And where we have Jesus, we always have hope for a new beginning. Where we have Jesus, the future is bright.
My brother and sisters, I also think that these words tonight are a promise for us, for the people of this land.
Because America, for a long time, has been a land overshadowed by death.
This is a land where the child in the womb has no right to grow or to be born. This is a land where the elderly, the terminally ill and disabled more and more are considered a “waste,” their lives not worthy of medical care.
We are dwelling in darkness, overshadowed by death. And we have been for a long time. Since January 22, 1973, when abortion was legalized. That’s a long time.
And sometimes it seems like the darkness just gets darker, that the darkness is spreading.
Last year, assisted suicide became legal here in California and this year Colorado voted to legalize the practice. And it is going to be legal soon in the District of Columbia.
And sadly, abortion continues to spread. It seems to be more and more “normalized.” It is now accepted as a part of public “health care,” as another form of contraception. Something our government more and more is paying for.
It is all too sad. Because it only leads to the candles that we will see late tonight in this Requiem. One candle lit for every child in our community who never got to be born, who never got to shine his or her light in this world.
But my brothers and sisters, this is not our fate. Darkness does win in the end. God does not leave us in the gloom of a land of death.
As we heard in the Gospel tonight — Jesus is the great light that rises in the land of darkness, in the shadows of death.
Jesus is the light of the world, the light of every nation. And he is the light of every life. In him, our future is bright. In him, we can overcome the shadows of death in our country.
Jesus gives us his light to show us the way. The light of his truth. The light of his own example, his way of love.
Remember, his words. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” But he also told this to his Church. He said: “You are the light of the world.”
He was talking to us, my brothers and sisters. This is who we are. We are children of light!
Together with Jesus — we are called to spread the light of God in our society. As Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, we are called to be healers. We are called to reach out to those who are sick, to those who are dying, to those who are scared about their future.
As Jesus did, we are called to proclaim that every life is precious, that every life is loved by God.
And I am proud to say that we are doing that here in the City of the Angels. It is a beautiful thing to witness. We are doing so much here to build a culture of life.
Late last year, we started ByYourSide LA — a wonderful program to support and heal women who have suffered the tragedy of abortion. This program is really beautiful. There is nothing like it in the country. We have prepared and trained many “merciful companions” who can accompany women and help them to come to know God’s forgiveness and love.
We are also working with our parishes to help support the elderly and the dying. Through our Whole Person Care initiative we are helping people prepare so that they can live their final days with true dignity — in the presence and with support from their parish family.
OneLifeLA today is another sign of this culture of life that we are building. For me, OneLife is more than a day. It is a movement, a vision. OneLife is a vision of a society of solidarity, love and service. A society where every life is welcomed and cared for — because every life is loved by God.
My brothers and sisters, thank you so much for being a light in our city and in our world.
Let us keep moving forward, always forward in the cause of life. Let us keep bringing the light of life, the light of Jesus — to every person and every corner of our society.
Let us help every person living in darkness to see the great light of Life, the great hope that we have in Jesus.
May Our Blessed Mother Mary be with you and with all your families.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
January 21, 2017