THE CHURCH IS NOT OF OUR MAKING
Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles
These days I’ve been praying a lot about our Church and her leadership.
I’ve been praying for Cardinal Roger Mahony as he gets ready to leave for Rome to exercise his sacred duty as Cardinal Elector to help select our new Pope. I’ve been praying for our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI as he steps down.
As you know, I had the privilege to spend a lot of time with the Pope this past October, when he chose me for the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. I didn’t know that those days would be the last time for me to concelebrate the Holy Eucharist with him. I will treasure those moments as a great grace.
As I’ve been praying for our Church and for the new Pope, I find myself returning to the meditation that Pope Benedict offered to start the Synod.
He reminded us that our word “evangelize” was originally used to describe the Roman Emperor’s announcements of victory, justice, peace and salvation.
The New Testament writers believed that Jesus was the true “emperor” of the world. So they naturally called the message he came to deliver, evangelium or “good news.”
Pope Benedict said that this “good news” — what it means and how we communicate it — is the central issue of our times.
“Because the great suffering of man — then, as now — is this: behind the silence of the universe, behind the clouds of history, is or isn’t there a God? And, if this God is there, does he know us, does he have anything to do with us? Is this God good, then does the reality of good have any power in the world or not? This question is as relevant today as it was then.”
The Church’s mission is to answer these questions. That mission is even more urgent today. Because it has become easier for people to live without God. And it has become harder in our culture to hear God’s message clearly.
This is the challenge we face at every level of the Church. To evangelize means we need to tell the world the good news that God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ. We need to make them know this and understand that in his Word we can find salvation, justice and peace.
As Pope Benedict told us: “Gospel means: God has broken his silence, God has spoken, God exists. This fact in itself is salvation: God knows us, God loves us, he has entered into history. Jesus is his Word, God with us, God showing us that he loves us, that he suffers with us until death and rises again. This is the Gospel. God has spoken, he is no longer the great unknown, but has shown himself and this is salvation.”
The Church exists for no other reason than to evangelize. That’s important for us to remember at this time of transition. It’s important to remember that the Church can’t really be understood in terms of power, politics or personalities.
The Church belongs to God, not to any one of us — not even to the Pope. That means that all of us, no matter how important our ministries, need humility and courage. We need to accept the grace to step away from our own plans and preferences to serve the good of the Church and the mission of the Gospel.
As I’ve been praying about this, I’ve again found wisdom in the Holy Father’s Synod reflections:
“The Church does not begin with our ‘making,’ but with the ‘making’ and ‘speaking’ of God. In the same way, the Apostles did not say, after a few meetings: now we want to make a Church. … No, they prayed and in prayer they waited, because they knew that only God himself can create his Church. … Pentecost is the condition of the birth of the Church: only because God acted first, are the Apostles able to act with him and make what he does present. … Therefore, it is important always to know that the first word, the true initiative, the true activity comes from God and only by inserting ourselves into the divine initiative, only by begging for this divine initiative, shall we too be able to become — with him and in him — evangelizers.”
So this week, let’s pray for one another. And together let us wait, just as the Apostles did. Let us pray as we wait for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pope.
And let us ask Our Blessed Mother, who was there at that first Pentecost, to inflame our hearts — to grow our love for the Church and to make us become the new evangelizers that her Son is calling us to be.
Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.