Priests of mercy, prophets of peace
I hope you all had a beautiful and peaceful Easter with your family and loved ones!
In Rome this coming Sunday, Mercy Sunday, our Holy Father Pope Francis will canonize two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, making them saints.
These canonizations are a moment of great joy for the universal Church, and locally we will be holding our own celebrations.
On Saturday evening, April 26, the eve of the canonizations, I will join our New Evangelization Office in hosting a special vigil of song, prayer and worship at the Cathedral.
The night will honor the legacy of Pope John Paul II, who led the Church across the threshold of the new millennium and gave the Church the mission of the “new evangelization.”
Then on Sunday afternoon, April 27, at 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral, I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for our two new saints, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.
Our Church is the Church of saints! And these two new saints are a gift from God for our times and to our Church.
Both were priests — good pastors and good spiritual fathers. And they were both prophets in their times. They knew the hearts of ordinary people — what they struggled with, what they hoped for. And they understood the broader patterns of history and the political currents in the world.
Both changed lives and changed the world we live in.
Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, which gave direction and shape to the Church’s mission in the modern world. The Council recovered the Gospel teaching of the universal call of every Christian to holiness, to be saints. And the Council taught that every one of us has a duty to spread the Gospel and build the Kingdom of God.
Pope John Paul II’s witness to hope is associated with the fall of communism in his native Poland and throughout Eastern Europe. He focused the world’s attention on human rights and the dignity of the human person.
Both of our new saints pointed us back to the Church’s essential mission — the mission of evangelization.
They taught us to face the challenge of announcing Jesus Christ in a world that is radically marked by globalization and secularization. They understood that these forces are not only reshaping our societies. They are also changing how people live and how they think about their lives and their relationships — with God, with their families, with other people.
Popes John Paul II and John XXIII called the Church to a new dialogue with “the world” — with people of other faiths and people of no religion; with the worlds of science and culture and politics and the arts.
They taught us that although Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the Church must always seek new ways and new techniques to bring Christ to the world.
There is of course much to be learned in many areas from their legacies and their witness. But for me, John XXIII is the Pope of peace and John Paul II is the Pope of mercy.
Peace and mercy are the fruits of the Kingdom that Jesus announced in his Gospel. And peace and mercy are the “good news” the Church is called to proclaim in our world today.
People are longing for peace with God, for peace with those around them, and peace in the world. And people are longing to know mercy — to know God’s love and forgiveness in their lives.
Our new saints knew this. They also knew that as followers of Christ, each of us has a missionary vocation — a calling from God to holiness and service to the Church’s mission.
Together, we are called to a mission in the Church. To proclaim “a time of mercy.” To proclaim the peace and reconciliation that God wants to share with everyone.
Our new saints called the Church — and each one of us — to a new spirit of mission, a spirit born from a new and deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ and the power of his Gospel. They taught us that evangelization begins in personal conversion.
So in this joyous season of Easter, let us thank God for our new saints. And let us commit ourselves to a new and deeper conversion — so that we might really embrace the power of the Resurrection in our lives. So that we might be truly changed every day by God’s love for us.
Both of our new saints had a loving devotion to our Blessed Mother. So let ask her to go with us and to always show us the way to follow Jesus along our Easter path of working to be saints and missionaries.
Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.