The following is adapted from the conclusion of a speech titled “Reflections on New American Religions,” delivered via video at the 23rd Congress of Catholics and Public Life at San Pablo University in Madrid, Spain. The full text is available on ArchbishopGomez.org.
The gospel of Jesus Christ remains the most powerful force for social change the world has ever known. And the Church has been “anti-racist” from the start. All are included in his message of salvation.
Jesus taught us to know and love God as our Father, and he called his Church to take this good news to the ends of the earth – to bring together, of every race, tribe and people, the one global family of God. .
This was the meaning of Pentecost, when men and women of all nations under heaven heard the gospel in their own mother tongue. This is what Saint Paul meant when he said that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free.
Of course, in the Church we have not always lived up to our fine standards, nor accomplished the mission entrusted to us by Christ.
But not everyone needs a new secular religion to replace Christianity. You and I must be better witnesses, better Christians. Let’s start by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting aside spiritual poisons like resentment and envy.
Personally, I am inspired by the saints and holy figures in the history of my country.
At this time, I am turning particularly to the Servant of God Dorothy Day. For me, it offers an important testimony to how Catholics can work to change our social order through radical detachment and a love for the poor based on the beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and works of mercy.
She also felt strongly that before we can change the hearts of others, we have to change ourselves.
She once said, “I see all too clearly how bad people are. I would like not to see it that way. It is my own sins that give me such clarity. But I can’t worry too much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of mine. … My daily prayer is that God enlarge my heart so much that I will see you all and that I will live with you all, in his love.
This is the attitude we need right now, when our society is so polarized and divided.
I am also inspired by the testimony of Venerable Auguste Tolton. It’s an incredible and truly American story. He was born into slavery, escaped in freedom with his mother, and became the first black man to be ordained a priest in my country.
Father Tolton once said: “The Catholic Church deplores double slavery – that of the mind and that of the body. She strives to free us from both.
Today we need that confidence in the power of the gospel.
In this hour, I believe that the Church must be a voice for individual conscience and tolerance, and we must promote greater humility and greater realism about the human condition. To recognize our common humanity is to recognize our common fragility. The truth is, we are all sinners, people who want to do the right thing, but often don’t.
This does not mean that we remain passive in the face of social injustice. But we must insist that brotherhood cannot be built through animosity or division. True religion offers a way for even the worst sinners to find redemption.
We must also hold on to the supernatural understanding of God’s providence, to the reality that the loving hand of God always guides our lives and the course of nations.
The Church is preparing to celebrate the 490th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which marks the true spiritual foundation of America.
Already we are seeing signs of a genuine religious awakening in America, under all the controversy of our politics, the lingering clouds of the pandemic, all the uncertainty about where our country is heading.
I am confident that we will see this spiritual awakening grow and spread in the years to come. And the words of Our Lady in Tepeyac continue to strengthen and inspire me: “Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection?
The mission of the Church at this cultural moment – as at all times and in all places – is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the true way of liberation from all slavery and all injustice, spiritual and material.
In our preaching and practice, and above all in our love for our neighbor, let us witness to God’s beautiful vision of our common humanity – our common origin and our common destiny in God.