Friday, December 5, 2014

OneLife LA — and a challenge for Advent

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Advent is a season of mercy.

The mercy of God is the great theme running through the first stories of Jesus’ coming.

In her Magnificat, Mary sings: “His mercy is from age to age.” Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, sings: “The tender mercy of our God … will visit us.”

So during this Advent season, I want to reflect with you on the Church’s traditional “corporal works of mercy” — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.

Jesus says these works of mercy will be the measure of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. He tells us the love that we show to the homeless and the hungry, to the prisoner and the sick, is the love that we show to God. And he warns that our indifference to those who need our mercy reflects our indifference to God.

Pope Francis has made mercy the “keynote” of his teaching. He reminds us again and again that our Christian identity and duty are defined by the Beatitudes that we find in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel and the works of mercy that we find in Matthew 25.

Taken together, he says, the Beatitudes and works of mercy show us the face of Jesus and help us to imitate his way of life. They give us an “action plan” — a practical path to follow to find happiness and salvation.

So during this Advent, I want to challenge all of us to go deeper in our experience of God’s mercy and our imitation of Jesus Christ’s works of mercy to others.

As you know, on Jan. 17, 2015, we are hosting OneLife LA, a one-day procession and festival that will highlight the works of mercy being done in our community — and the beautiful calling to mercy that God has given us for our lives.

I am excited about OneLife. This will be a day to celebrate the beauty of human life and our duty to serve our brothers and sisters and defend their rights and dignity, especially those who are the weakest and most vulnerable.

Our Archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace is proud to be sponsoring this positive and family-friendly event along with the Knights of Columbus and the Right to Life League of Southern California. We are honored that Supreme Knight Carl Anderson will be joining us for the day. We are also partnering with our neighboring dioceses of Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Fresno and we have the generous support from local foundations.

OneLife LA will be ecumenical and interfaith. We will have surprise celebrity guests and musical entertainers and food trucks — a real fiesta of the human spirit!

Through OneLife LA, we are trying to build understanding and friendships and bring together the many good people who are working to build a culture of life and mercy in our communities — including Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul programs and ministries serving the unborn and expectant mothers, the homeless, orphans, victims of human trafficking, refugees, the handicapped and the terminally ill.

The program for OneLife LA reflects the beautiful clarity of the Catholic vision — that all human life reflects the image of our Creator and that every life, even the weak and the small, has infinite significance in God’s plan for creation and history.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is our inspiration and “patroness” for OneLife LA. Because by her witness, she showed us the beauty of all human life — and the need to protect life— from the child in the womb, to the innocent victims of war, to the sick and the dying.

Mother Teresa used to say, “Be somebody to somebody.” It is a beautiful way to express our duty to do works of mercy.

So I invite you to join me in a “challenge.” Let’s try every day in Advent to “be somebody to somebody” — especially those in our families and those who are poor and lonely — so they will feel God’s mercy and love.

On my Facebook page during Advent, I'm going to be highlighting organizations that are making a difference in our community, building a culture of life and mercy. I invite you to share the good things you are doing with me and on my page and by tagging #OneLifeLA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s keep praying for one another during this Advent! And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to teach us to be somebody to somebody every day, as we await the birth of Jesus.

To participate in the “Be Somebody to Somebody Challenge,” visit Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth 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 at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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