LOS ANGELES — At a Sept. 7 Mass in recognition of all Immigrants, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles called migrants to witness to America the healing love of Christ, which has the power to restore unity to a divided nation.
“My brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mission in this moment, in this challenging time in our country,” the archbishop said. “We need to show our neighbors a better way: the way of Jesus, the way of love.”
In this critical moment in America, Jesus is offering an invitation “to love those who make themselves our enemies and to pray for those who would try to cause division in our country,” he said.
“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,” Archbishop Gomez stressed. “Love is the only way forward for America. And we are the ones who must show our nation the way.”
The Mass, held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, united Catholics from Los Angeles and the Dioceses of San Bernardino, Orange and San Diego.
Archbishop Gomez presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishops David O’Connell, Robert Barron and Marc Trudeau, Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Roger Mahony and retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sartoris, as well as Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange and Orange Auxiliary Bishops Timothy Freyer and Thanh Thai Nguyen.
The Mass concluded a novena in parishes across Southern California, as well as a three-day walking pilgrimage from Orange County to the cathedral in Los Angeles. The 60-mile pilgrimage was a gesture of solidarity with immigrants.
Relics of St. Junípero Serra, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and St. Toribio Romo were available for veneration following Mass.
In his homily, Archbishop Gomez stressed that “[h]atred can never change the one who hates. Only love can.”
“Christian love is not weak or soft,” he said. “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.”
Each person present at Mass has his or her own story, the archbishop noted, with their own fears, hopes and dreams, converging at this moment in Southern California.
While the United States has always been an “exceptional” country, welcoming migrants as a “beacon of hope,” he said, the nation is today seeing exceptional polarization, perhaps the worst since the Civil War.
“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.”
The death of Christ unites all the faithful in a story of redemption and a call to conversion, Archbishop Gomez said.
“In Jesus Christ, every barrier, every wall falls down,” he said. “There is no Mexican, no Vietnamese, 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.”
When viewed through this lens, it is clear that immigration is not merely a political issue, but a spiritual one, as well, he said.
“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.”
The archbishop pointed to Mary as a special advocate for America. He encouraged all those present to pray a daily Rosary for the conversion of hearts and the healing of the nation.
When circumstances appear bleak, we can remember that Christ “is the Lord of Creation and history,” he said. “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.”