Thursday, September 6, 2012

In the heart of our city, God is here

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

In the heart of this metropolis, this cathedral reminds us that we are living in the City of the Angels. ¡El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles!

It reminds us that our modern, secularized city — which plays such a big role in shaping opinions, fashions and culture — is named for the angels of God and the Blessed Mother of Jesus Christ, who is the Queen of all the Angels in heaven.

Los Angeles — and all of California and the Americas — are built on a Christian foundation. They are products of the Christian mission to the New World. We can never forget that!

Because this cathedral was built to continue that mission in our times. It’s fitting that it was consecrated 10 years ago on this date — which is near the anniversary of the founding of Los Angeles in 1781.

The founders of this cathedral knew that the story of Los Angeles is part of the great story of salvation that God is still writing in the history of the nations.

This is the story that is told in the beautiful tapestries in the cathedral sanctuary. It is a story of conversion and witness. It is a story of men and women seeking God and his holiness — their eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, following him with faith and joy.

Like all good religious art, these tapestries move us to prayer and reflection. Today, it strikes me that in one of these tapestries, St. Mark, the Gospel writer, is standing right next to Blessed Junípero Serra, the father of the California missions.

For me, this is a beautiful symbol of the unity of God’s saving plan of love.

Christ’s apostles carried his Gospel from Galilee and Jerusalem throughout Europe and Asia. Centuries later, their successors sent missionaries from Spain to the Americas — which they called the New World.

These missionaries came up from Mexico to evangelize California. They built mission churches up and down the long road they called El Camino Real, the King’s Highway. As we know, that original highway passed by not far from this place.

We are all children of this great mission to California and the Americas. This Cathedral is the newest of our “mission churches.”

That’s why it is important that on this anniversary we are dedicating a beautiful new chapel in our cathedral for the relic of the tilma of St. Juan Diego.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was the inspiration for the first evangelization of the Americas. And as our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, we need to look to her as the bright star and patroness for the new evangelization.

We need to make our Cathedral a center for people to discover their Christian vocation — vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, but also a place where lay people rediscover and fulfill their responsibility for the church and especially their missionary call.

The Church’s mission continues in you and in me. The faith we have received, we are called to give to others. Through our faith and in our lives, we are all called to write new chapters in the story of salvation. We are called to build on the foundations laid by Padre Serra and those first missionaries.

St. Peter tells us that we are living stones called to build a spiritual house. This is how we have to think about our lives.

This cathedral — made from stone, glass, marble and wood — is a symbol of God’s living church. It is a symbol of the spiritual temple that God is building in his world throughout history. Christ is the cornerstone of this building. But God is building his church with us. We are his “building materials.” Each of us is a living stone.

God wants to make this whole world his church. A sanctuary of his love. A temple where he comes to meet his children, and where we can worship and adore him in spirit and in truth.

This beautiful truth is told in the tapestries that hang behind the Cathedral altar. The city streets of Los Angeles are represented, along with some of the last words from the Bible’s last book: God will dwell with them. They will be God’s people and God will be with them (Revelation 21: 3).

This is God’s plan for our city and our continent! This cathedral is a sacrament — a living sign — of God’s intentions. Because here, in this cathedral, God is already alive and with us!

The ccriptures tell us that one day heaven and earth are going to pass away and this world will become God’s holy temple, the place of his living presence. But until the close of the age, he will be with us always in this cathedral, and in every Catholic Church.

In the sacrifice of the holy Eucharist at this beautiful altar, he makes himself present. To be our spiritual food and drink. To give us strength for our mission. In the tabernacle in our beautiful chapel, he remains with us so that we can adore him with profound reverence.

We need to remember that this cathedral — like every Catholic church — is more than a building. This is a holy place. This is hallowed ground.

The heart of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is beating here — in the very center of our secularized city. When we pass by on the streets do we realize the treasure that we have inside? Within these walls made by human hands, we have God!

Here in this cathedral, men and women can come to listen to the living word of God. Here in this cathedral, men and women can come to the personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The mission of this Cathedral — and the duty of each one of us — is to help our neighbors to rediscover the living God who comes to us in Jesus Christ.

We need to find new ways to touch their hearts. We need to find new ways to open them to the truth of God’s loving purposes for their lives.

This cathedral is the mother and the head of all the churches in this great archdiocese. And we must rededicate ourselves to making this cathedral the living heart of a new mission to our city and our continent.

Let’s make this a City of the Angels! A city of where the reality of God is realized and glorified. A city where God’s teachings are the foundations of a society where we live as brothers and sisters, sharing in the good gifts of God’s creation.

We need to bring the living God we receive in the Eucharist — outside beyond these cathedral walls. We need to carry Jesus Christ into our homes and occupations and into all our civic duties as citizens and neighbors. We need to make the beauty of his Gospel the foundation of a new culture of life and hope.

So in this new moment of grace, let us live with a new desire to be “living stones” and to build up God’s church on earth.

And let us ask the intercession of Our Lady of the Angels, so that she might help each of us to become like her — a living temple of God’s love.

Editor’s note: This an edited version of the homily that Archbishop Gomez delivered on Sept. 2, 2012, to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in 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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