Friday, April 20, 2012

On the threshold of the apostles

By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Easter greetings from Rome! I’m here with my brother bishops this week for our “ad limina” visits.

Bishops are required to come to Rome once every five years or so to meet with the pope and give an account of the Catholic faith in their dioceses. So we’re here along with the other bishops of California and the bishops of Hawaii and Nevada.

The Latin words ad limina refer to going to "the threshold" of the tombs of the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul. And these visits symbolize our respect for the pope, who is St. Peter’s successor as head of the college of bishops and Christ’s church on earth.

As I write, we’ve just finished our first day of meetings. It was a special day. Because we came to this "threshold" on April 16, Pope Benedict XVI’s 85th birthday.

I had the blessing of praying for our Holy Father first thing this morning, while looking out over St. Peter’s Basilica! I prayed the Apostle’s Creed and asked God for the strength to accompany the pope in his ministry to the universal church!

We will meet with the Holy Father later this week. My brother bishops and I will also be making the rounds of various Vatican departments to discuss specific areas of our ministry.

On our first day, we met with the Apostolic Tribunal, which oversees church law, which is known as canon law. We met with Cardinal Raymond Burke and his staff and we had a good discussion.

We talked about how the church’s law is not just a set of "dos" and “don’ts.” Church law is really a way of understanding and living by the truth of the Gospel.

I came away from this meeting with a renewed sense of how knowing canon law better can help us to know God’s love for us and can facilitate our path to sanctity.

We also met on our first day with officials for the Pontifical Council for the Family.

We talked about how Catholics need to be leaders in helping our world rediscover the beauty of marriage. And we talked about how essential it is for our society’s future that we strengthen marriage and the family.

This meeting made me reflect on how marriage and family must always remain "the way of the church” — which is what Blessed Pope John Paul II used to say.

Finally on this fruitful first day, we celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This is where St. Paul is buried.

I think it’s providential that we started our visit here. Because in this basilica, in 1959, Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his desire to convene the Second Vatican Council.

This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the Council. And as we know, to celebrate, Pope Benedict has declared a "Year of Faith." It will start on Oct. 11, 2012, the anniversary of Vatican II’s opening in 1962.

So during our Mass, I prayed that all of us will have the apostolic zeal of St. Paul and dedicate ourselves again to the new evangelization! And I prayed that we will find new joy in living our faith and sharing our faith with others.

I find myself here in Rome with a renewed spirit of faith and joy. It is moving for me to come to this "threshold" during these early days of the Easter season.

The readings we hear in our liturgies during this season focus on the Acts of the Apostles and especially the preaching and ministry of St. Peter.

What we see in these early days of the church are a bold witness to the Resurrection and what is means to be "begotten by God" in Baptism.

In one of the readings we hear during this season, St. John says: "Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world! ... And who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God ... who came through water and blood."

I feel this faith in Jesus alive in our great archdiocese.

Our church here in Southern California is alive, growing and filled with commitment for the new evangelization of our culture and for building the new city of truth and love in America.

So let’s pray for one another in this beautiful season of hope. And please pray in a special way this week for my brother bishops and me.

And please know that my prayers here are with all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I am asking that God give us his grace to renew our love for God and his holy church.

Holy Mary, mother of the church, Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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