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7 Points to ponder in the profound pastoral letter of Archbishop José Gomez

USCCB/Jeffrey Bruno
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"For Greater Things You were Born" is beautiful, instructive, challenging and can provide great lectio during Lent

Every one of us is created by God and for God. This is the beautiful mystery that lies at the heart of human existence, at the heart of your life and mine. Every child who is born, from the beginning of time to the end, is born from the loving thought of our Heavenly Father, who holds us in his gaze, looking upon each of us as one of his own, a beloved son, a beloved daughter.  

God made us to be blessed, to be happy. And we are born with the desire for happiness written into our hearts, a desire that only God can satisfy. St. Augustine said many centuries ago: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”1 This is true for every human heart. We cannot be happy without God and God longs for all of us to be happy and blessed in him.  

As Christians, we worship the God who loves the human race so much that he comes to be a part of it. The human person, fully alive and thriving, is the image and glory of God.2 This is the truth that Jesus Christ revealed by his life, death and Resurrection. 

With these words, Archbishop José H. Gomez begins “For Greater Things You Were Born,” his pastoral letter “to the Family of God in Los Angeles,” and it is a particularly instructive, consoling yet challenging read as we enter into this Lenten season.

Gomez takes his title from the sayings of Venerable Mother Luisita, a Mexican refugee of the Cristeros war and foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, explaining, “Venerable Mother Luisita would tell everyone: ‘For greater things you were born!’ That’s it, my friends! That’s the good news we are called to proclaim to our city, to our country, throughout this continent and world. For greater things we were born! Each of us has been made for love and for great and beautiful things. There is no soul that God does not long to touch with this message of his love! And he wants to touch those souls through us…”

Building upon Augustine’s point that our completion begins with our first encounter with Christ Jesus, Gomez suggests that this encounter fosters within us a desire to pursue holiness. Meeting Jesus, he writes, “gives our lives a new direction and purpose — we perceive what life truly means in walking with Jesus, following him and modeling our lives after his.”

Gomez makes clear, however, that this modeling must include both prayer and action, particularly in a culture of “deepening secularism and ‘anti-humanistic’ spirit in American Life.” A society that cannot recognize God, he suggests, cannot recognize itself, either. Citing the stubborn social problems that plague us – racism, classism which restricts opportunity, human trafficking, nationalism, abortion, gender-issues, addiction and more – Gomez says, “our society has lost [the] sense of truth about the precious nature and dignity of the human person.”

The letter is so good it is difficult to excerpt and really needs to be read in its entirety, and perhaps slowly throughout Lent, so as to ponder its points in prayer, but here are particularly poignant excerpts worth considering in these first days:

On the Incarnational Mystery

The whole Christian religion comes down to one truth. We believe in a personal God who wants to share his life with us, a God who comes in search of us, who calls us to seek him and comes to help us find him.

Sending his own Son into the world, God fulfills the “Fatherly instruction” that he began from the moment of creation. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ reveals once for all the sanctity, dignity and great calling of the human person.17

Jesus became man in order that we might become God. This is not an abstract statement of theology. It is the destiny and meaning of your life and mine.

On Sin and its ultimate defeat

Sin is disordered love, choosing to love the wrong things and to form unhealthy attachments rooted in our selfishness. Sin begins in the refusal to trust in God’s goodness and follow his will for our lives. Sin makes it hard for us to love ourselves and hard for us to love others and God. Sin disfigures the image of God in us, as we choose to love ourselves and the things of this created world more than the God who creates and sustains all things.

But sin does not get the last word in our lives. God does not abandon the human race to sin. Jesus Christ enters human history as the perfect “image of the invisible God” and the “new man.” He delivers us from sin and restores our human capacity for God and our ability to carry out God’s intentions for our lives.

Our Corporality

Whether we are born a man or a woman is fundamental to the mystery of our individual lives and God’s plan for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth of God’s plan for our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. 

Spiritual Friendship

In our society, we need to rediscover the authentic meaning of marriage. But I think it is also important for us to rediscover the authentic meaning of friendship. 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.

Yes, God Knows You

Sometimes I think this is one of the hardest Christian truths for people to accept. The universe is so vast, how can God possibly know who I am and care about me? How can it be that I am someone who is desired and needed by God?

Sanctity of Life

…if the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid basis for defending any person’s human rights, and no basis for peace and justice in society. If men and women have no right to pursue their relationship with God, if our natural thirst for what is infinite, beautiful, good and true is denied, then our very dignity as persons is negated.53

Prayer, scripture, reflection and Holy Mass are essential

St. Philip Neri said: “The most beautiful prayer we can make, is to say to God, ‘As Thou knowest and willest, O Lord, so do with me.”69

However you pray, the point is to bring yourself into the presence of the living God, in an attitude of humility, love and worship — knowing his nearness, knowing he is present, walking with us. … meet Christ as often as you can in the Eucharist and to find opportunities to pray and adore him in the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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