On May 10, Archbishop Gomez received an honorary doctorate of Christian letters from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The University cited the Archbishop “for his fidelity to the Catholic Church, for being the voice of Hispanic Catholics in the United States, and for bringing the Gospel of Christ to people everywhere.” Archbishop Gomez celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass for the nearly 700 graduates of the Class of 2013. The following is adapted from his homily on Acts 18:9-18 and John 16:16-20.
Like the first apostles at Jerusalem, we live “in between” times. In between the time of Jesus’ Ascension and the time when he will come again. In these times we live by trust in Jesus’ beautiful promise: I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.
His Ascension begins the time of mission, the time of the Holy Spirit. This is our time. His Ascension is our mission. Jesus has given his Church — he has given each one of us — that task of finishing his mission.
We are called to be his witnesses in the world. We are called to say to our neighbors — “Jesus has come. He is alive. The Son of God has become the Son of Man. And he has come to show us the way to the Father!”
Like St. Paul and the first apostles, we are called to proclaim this good news — in every area of our daily life. As Paul did, we need to teach the Word of God. And as we know, we always teach the best by the way we live.
Not everyone in our world wants to hear this Word. Proclaiming Jesus Christ can lead to violence, to persecution. This was true in the time of the apostles and it’s true today.
Our mission is to continue Jesus’ mission…. To build a world of love, the family of God. And we do that by helping our loved ones and the people we meet every day to find God.
That’s why in every Mass we should give thanks for all the martyrs — known and unknown — who laid down their lives to keep the Christian faith alive in many dark and faithless times. Because of their witness and courage, this beautiful faith, the truth of the living God, has been handed on to us.
In every Eucharist, we should also remember those Christians around the world who are suffering and dying today for Jesus.
Persecution comes in many forms. The Church in our country knows the “soft” persecution of those who would deny us our rights to live our faith in freedom. More and more, we face pressures to compromise and abandon our beliefs as “the price” for living in modern American society.
There is a line in the Acts of the Apostles that seems prophetic of the times we are living in. The accusation is made against St. Paul: This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.
True faith, living Christianity, challenges all the false idols of our society — the idols of the flesh and consumerism, the idols of the marketplace, the idols of individualism and nationalism. So we have to expect that powerful forces will want to keep the Church out of the public square.
We’re living now in a highly secularized society. As a Church, I really don’t think we’ve come to grips with that yet. But it’s true. Our society thinks it has no need for God anymore. That’s not so much a criticism as it is just a fact. And it isn’t going to do us any good to appeal to the faith of America’s founding fathers or to talk about all the ways the Church’s charities and schools contribute to the common good. We are beyond that now in our society.
America is like Corinth in the time of St. Paul — we have become again a society that lives as if there is no God, or as if his existence doesn’t make any difference. In this kind of society, worshipping God — living our faith — is going to be more and more contrary to the law.
This is a great challenge for the Church — and for each one of us as Christians. We are going to have to go out into this world and find new ways to engage this culture. We are going to have to find new ways to proclaim Christ and to live as Christians in this culture. This is what the new evangelization is all about.
The good news is that we don’t go alone. We go with Jesus. We go with God. The words that Jesus speaks to St. Paul are meant for us:
Do not be afraid.
Go on speaking and do not be silent.
For I am with you.
Our mission is to continue his mission. To redeem that little part of the world that we live in — our homes, the places where we work, our neighborhoods. To sanctify reality. To build a world of love, the family of God. And we do that by helping our loved ones and the people we meet every day to find God.
We need to pray for one another. We need to ask for the grace and strength to bring Christ’s light to the darkest corners of every human heart, to the darkest corners of our world today.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary, who is Our Lady of the Angels and the Queen of Heaven, to help us to always live as apostles of Jesus. May she help us go forward in faith to be his witnesses, serving our brothers and sisters in love, waiting in joyful hope until he comes again in glory.
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