Saturday, October 31, 2015

Proclaiming the mystery of family love

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

I am happy to be writing you this week from Los Angeles. It’s great to be back home!

The Synod of Bishops on the family concluded this weekend. As I have been reporting, the Synod Fathers worked hard during these past three weeks. And this weekend we presented a final document that offers our Holy Father Pope Francis some good solid pastoral perspectives on the issues facing the Church and the family in modern society.

I am pleased that the final document was strong in affirming the church’s traditional teaching — that God’s plan for marriage is intended for one man and one woman to be united in love for life. Throughout the document there is beautiful language, drawn from the Scriptures, that describes God’s plan for the family.

The document also includes strong passages on the importance of families having children, on the sanctity of life and the importance of children as the future of the Church. The Synod Fathers were also strong on the challenges of global immigration and its effects on the family, a reality we see every day here in Los Angeles.

There is also urgent language on the need to defend the elderly and the disabled against the rising movement of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Sadly, this is also a reality that we now have to face in California.

In his final homily closing the Synod, Pope Francis urged us, as pastors, to continue walking with our people, “with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love.”

It was a great blessing for me to have this time to pray and reflect with our Holy Father Pope Francis and with my brother bishops from all over the world.

And I return with a new energy and new ideas about strengthening marriage and family life which, as we know, is one of my five pastoral priorities for the family of God here in Los Angeles.

Prior to the synod, with the help of our Family Life Office and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we conducted a survey of our family life programs in the archdiocese. Now is the time for us to study those findings and look for fresh approaches and “best practices” for couples and families.

My own sense is that we need to look especially at how we prepare couples for marriage and how we support them in the critical early years of their marriage. I also think we need to look at the challenges families face from poverty, economic circumstances and immigration status.

In this regard, I am more convinced than ever that we need to try to make Catholic schools more accessible to families, especially families in need. I was pleased that the synod’s final document recognized the vital role of Catholic schools in supporting Catholic families and providing training in the virtues and instruction in the faith.

I also believe we need to support families in their spiritual lives. We need to help families feel comfortable praying together and talking about their faith.

Families are so busy and so distracted with everyday work and chores and duties. We need to find ways to bring them together for prayer and friendship and just spending time together.

We need to help them develop family traditions and habits that make their faith more a part of the natural rhythms of their daily life. Just sharing a Sunday meal after Mass would be one example, along with finding more time during the week to eat dinner together.

In our global economy, families are also more and more separated and “on the move.” Children often live and work far away from their parents and grandparents — either across the country or across the ocean or the border.

So we need to find ways to keep families united — and united in their faith. Some families are already using forms of social media — Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp — to stay connected.

We should encourage this and also find new ways that families can share time and pray together and share their challenges. In my opinion, we have only begun to explore the possibilities of using social media to support marriages and families and to share our faith.

I also think we need to encourage every one in the Church — and every member of every family — in their call to be missionaries. Missionaries of the family.

It is a great time in our society for all of us to be going out and sharing with the people in our society — especially with our young people — the beauty of God’s plan for creation, for marriage, and for the family.

So let’s keep praying for each other this week. And let’s pray for couples who are married and about to be married. And let’s pray for the grace to find new ways to support families and to proclaim the beautiful plan of God for the family.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary, her spouse Joseph and the Child Jesus all watch over and guide our families.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Catholics in Mexico thankful Hurricane Patricia did not cause major damage

Hurricane Patricia is seen approaching Mexico.
By Catholic News Agency

During Mass on Sunday at the cathedral of Mexico City, the celebrant thanked God that Hurricane Patricia — the strongest recorded in the western hemisphere — did not in the end cause major damage to Mexico, as was anticipated.

Father Julián López Amozurrutia, a canon at the cathedral, thanked God Oct. 25 because “he had mercy on our country in the way Hurricane Patricia landed.”

Hurricane Patricia made landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco late on Oct. 23. It had been a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 202 mph; massive devastation was expected.

But the storm struck a lightly populated area, and was downgraded to a Category 2 tropical storm by the morning of Oct. 24. Six people are confirmed to have died from the storm, though 400,000 people are believed to live in vulnerable areas, and subsequent landslides and flash flooding were feared.

“A prayer of gratitude and petition to the Lord who had mercy on our country by the path Hurricane Patricia took through the states that were threatened to be affected, and also for the people who suffered some tragedy. We place them all on the altar of the Lord,” Father López said at the Mass.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

This is as good as it gets in today's scriptures: "the Lord has delivered his people"; "I will bring them back"; "I will gather them"; "they departed in tears but I will console them"; "(I will) guide them ... lead them."

These are the prophetic utterances of Jeremiah who speaks of God's great love and care of this people, Israel.

God declares himself as their father. There seems to be no limits to his love, guidance, healing and restoring care. This is our great God as he relates to his people. God even delights in referring to the many who are satisfied with his love as he announces: "they shall return as an immense throng."

Not only does the word reveal a loving God who treats his people with such kindness and goodness, he shows the same love for the individual person through Jesus who listens, responds and brings healing to yet another individual.

Jesus, surrounded by a sizable crowd, hears the voice of one person — Bartimaeus — who was crying out when he heard that Jesus was passing by. This blind man had heard of his healing power. Not anyone nor anything could silence his cries.

Jesus heard him, called him over, and asked what he wanted. Jesus sent him away healed and restored and with an even stronger faith.

Whether it is God listening to his people or Jesus listening to an individual person, the same message is proclaimed loudly and clearly today.

The psalmist pulls it all together in the refrain we sing and pray today: "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy."

But some feel quite the opposite. They feel that God does not hear their voice or their cry. They are convinced that God has abandoned them and has not responded to their needs. They have given up on prayer and seeking because it seems their prayers are never answered.

Today's word is no consolation but rather a painful reminder of their sorrowful and despairing lack of hope — their growing faithlessness.

I wonder how many years Bartimaeus may have felt the same. I wonder if he ever felt abandoned, punished and forsaken by God. I wonder if it isn’t simply a part of the human condition to sometimes feel this way.

But perhaps like Bartimaeus there comes the day when, in spite of all of the noise around us and the usual busyness of life, we can still hear that voice of Jesus or recognize the presence of God.

Perhaps God is most near and listening deeply to us when we are lost in our blindness, have surrendered to voiceless cries, get stuck in paralyzed moments, or can't hear because of our deafness or feel because of our hardened hearts.

May we have the fortitude and clarity of Bartimaeus to cry out again and again until we know we are heard, until we feel the Lord asking for what we want or need, until our spirit is connected with the Lord of life.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Holy spouses, holy families: reflections on the final days of the synod

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

As synod 2015 began its final week of work, Pope Francis canonized a married couple, Louis and Zélie Martin, whose nine children included the doctor of the church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Louis and Zélie led a humble, hidden life. It was rooted in the rhythms of daily Mass and everyday duties — earning a living, making meals and doing the housework, teaching the children, serving in the community, and simply enjoying time together as a family. The couple knew love and joy and also suffering and sadness — four of their children died as infants.

In his homily on Sunday Pope Francis called them “holy spouses.”

St. Louis and St. Zélie are not rarities. How many holy spouses are there, hidden saints of the everyday, in every time and every place in the church? There are holy spouses and holy families in every part of the world today — ordinary men and women trying to live faithfully by the church’s teachings and the grace of her sacraments.

This is what the synod is meant to be all about — helping spouses in their vocations as husbands and wives, helping them to meet the challenges they confront in society, inspiring them to live out God’s beautiful plan for their lives.

In the media coverage of the synod, we can be tempted to think that the church’s doctrines and practices are a kind of political “policy” or a set of “positions” on issues. But the truth is that the Catholic faith is not a program or a set of rules. Catholicism is a vision of creation, a vision of the human person and the human family, a vision that is grand and transcendent.

Everything in the church — all our teachings, practices and disciplines — flows from this vision, which is given to us by God in the Scriptures and the church’s living tradition.

Pope Francis has said that in thinking about the family, we must be “led by the Word of God, on which rests the foundation of the holy edifice of the family, the domestic church and the family of God.”

This is true. And as we enter this final week of the Synod, I think it is important for us to keep this “foundation” in mind, to try to see God’s vision for the family more clearly and to understand how important the family is for the church’s future and the future of civilization.

God’s dream

St. Paul called marriage a “great mystery.”

This mystery is written into the pages of sacred Scripture from beginning to end ­— from the marriage of the first man and woman at creation to the cosmic wedding feast of Christ and his bride when the new heavens and earth come and time is no more.

Pope Francis speaks of the Creator’s design in terms of wonder and awe. At last year’s extraordinary consistory, he invoked “God’s magnificent plan for the family.” At the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and again in his homily opening the current synod, he called marriage “God’s dream for his beloved creation.”

Jesus Christ revealed this dream by coming into the world in a human family. The Holy Family of Nazareth shows us that every family is meant to be an “icon” of God, an image of the Holy Trinity in the world.

I always remember the beautiful words of St. John Paul II at Puebla, Mexico, at the beginning of his pontificate: “Our God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love.”

This is God’s plan for the human family. Every family is called to be a “domestic church” reflecting the communion of love in the Trinity. Every married couple is given a vocation — to live their love forever in a mutual and complete gift of self; to renew the face of the earth with children, who are the fruits of their love and the precious love of our Creator. Married love is forever and cannot be dissolved because it is the sign of God’s own covenant with creation.

The church’s mission is to continue God’s “family plan” for creation — to call men and women from every nation and people to form a single family of God, united in his son, Jesus.

So that is why the church will always take these matters of human sexuality, marriage, family and children so seriously.

That is why the litany of the church’s great martyrs includes countless men and women who died defending the church’s doctrines and practices — Agnes and Cecilia in ancient Rome; Thomas More and Charles Lwanga; the Franciscans martyred in Georgia during the evangelization of the New World. And there were many more.

The family crisis

Some of my brother bishops have remarked on the sense of urgency — some even call it anxiety — that has been felt during this synod. The somber mood is reflected in the working document that has formed the basis for our discussions during these past three weeks.

Pope Francis has spoken often of the profound cultural crisis facing the family. And there is a sense in this synod that the family “as we know it” is in danger of disappearing — threatened by forces that are economic, cultural and ideological.

At the root of the family crisis is a crisis of confidence in God — a loss of the sense that he is our Father and Creator, and that he has a plan, a “dream” for his creation, a plan for our lives.

The family today is threatened by the same “anthropocentric” and “technocratic” mentality that Pope Francis warns about in Laudato Si’, his encyclical on creation.

This mentality rejects the “realities” of creation and human nature. Everything — nature, the human body and mind, social institutions — everything is seen as so much “raw material” to be “engineered” using technology, medicine, even law and public policy.

What the pope calls the “technocratic paradigm” underlies the existential threats that confront human life and the family today — from artificial contraception and embryonic experimentation, to the surgical manipulations of femininity and masculinity required for “transgenderism,” to the redefinition of marriage and the forced sterilization and abortion policies prevalent in some parts of the world.

The way forward

In confronting this broad cultural crisis of the family, the church needs to proclaim once more the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s loving plan for creation and the family.

“The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place … is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world,” Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’.

At the center of our Father’s plan for the world, we find the married couple and the family.

That is why the church cannot allow marriage and family to be reduced to cultural constructs or arbitrary living arrangements. Because if we lose the family, we lose God’s plan for our lives and for the world.

Marriage and family are gifts from the Creator that are “written into” the order of his creation and expressed in the bodily differences of men and women and their vocation to a communion of love that is faithful for life and fruitful in creating new life.

Pope Francis affirms this in Laudato Si’ and he emphasized it again during his yearlong catechesis on the family.

The human person is God’s “masterpiece,” created body and soul in his image and likeness, the pope said.

The natural differences between men and women and their “complementarity” stand at the “summit of divine creation,” and order the couple to “communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.”

These basic truths of creation are the source for everything that the church believes, teaches and practices regarding marriage and family.

The church is called to proclaim these truths to the world in all their fullness and in all their beauty. We are called to do everything that we can to support those couples and families who are trying to live these truths — to be “holy spouses” and “holy families.”

The church is also called to reach out with tenderness to those who are having trouble understanding and living these truths.

But Pope Francis has also urged us in strong words not to sacrifice the truths of creation in a vain effort to “please the people” or to make the church’s teachings sound less demanding.

At the end of the extraordinary synod last year he cautioned against “a destructive tendency … that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.”

This is always a natural temptation when we are faced with human weakness and misunderstanding.

But the pope reminds us that kindness and compassion can never be separated from the truth of God’s plan. A person’s conscience is sacred. But our conscience is only reliable if it is formed according to the truth that God has written into our hearts and the loving plan he has for our lives.

The words we speak in mercy must always be the truth, or our words are not merciful at all, just sentimental feelings.

Telling people what they want to hear will never do them any good, unless what we are saying is the truth they need to know.

All of us in the church, in these difficult times, are called to accompany people, to meet them where they are at and to walk with them in charity and tenderness and compassion. But the journey of the Christian life is always a journey of conversion. Our “destination” is not where we want to go, but where God wants to lead us.

A moment for mission

So as we enter these final days of the synod, I find myself turning to our newest saints. Not only the holy spouses St. Louis and St. Zélie Martin. But also our newest American saint, St. Junípero Serra, who blazed the trails of holiness in the New World.

I believe that all of us in the church need a new missionary confidence and courage for the times we are living in.

In fact, we are living in a time of hope, a new missionary moment — a time when the church has a great opportunity for the new evangelization of our continents and the world.

Every day, as bishops from around the world gather in this Synod Hall, we are witnessing the reality that the Gospel has been enculturated in “every nation under heaven.”

This has been striking for me, this experience of the universal church: to realize that the church today is able to truly pray, teach and evangelize in one voice — as one family of God, drawn from every nation, people and language, united in our faith in the Gospel and our communion with the Holy Father in Rome.

With the unity of our doctrine and practice, and the rich diversity of our local traditions of popular piety — the church has tremendous resources to resist pressures and worldly powers and to proclaim the Gospel to a new generation.

We need to challenge the “orthodoxies” and the “anthropology” of our culture. We need to find creative, positive ways to proclaim God as Creator and to show the beauty of his plan for the human person and the family.

Counting on the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, my prayer in this final week is that all of us in the church will stay united in our apostolic desire to be missionary disciples. And that we will use this new moment to carry the beauty of God’s plan for our lives and his original dream for creation — to the ends of the earth.

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, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

The disciples, James and John, went to Jesus and called him "teacher."

They asked for a favor: "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."

Instead of granting the favor, Jesus began to teach them. Serving, giving, surrendering and letting go were the words that came from Jesus' mouth that day.

These are not passive realities. These are chosen, embraced, accepted realities that we enter into with our eyes and our hearts open. These are not for the weak and helpless. On the contrary, these are for the bold and those of strong faith who stand up to make the choice, believing it has the potential to profoundly affect not only the self but the other.

A person can make me be last by forcing me into that place in line, or by depriving me of the choice to be first, second or third. But no one can make me choose it. No one can make me surrender my heart to being last. That is a choice only I can make. That is an attitude of mind and heart that only I have the power to make in my life. That is the point.

It is not being in the last position that is important to Jesus. It is the choosing of that position that is important.

When someone begins to understand service and being last so that others may be first, they begin to experience the power of the kingdom. In Jesus' kingdom, the only place that makes sense is last place. The only position of real meaning is that of service.

The values that society so often lift up are all rooted in competition, power and authority, deciding, forcing, winning and gaining control over – these are what usually cause us to think we are superior.

Only one who truly values life could ever understand the incomparable power of letting it go for another. Only those who have truly felt loved and gifted by another are those who instinctively would understand service.

Those who have been chosen to be first are those who would love, desire and thirst to put others in that place – even if that meant they needed to be last in order for it to be so.

This is "kingdom thinking." This is "God stuff." This is where "spirit and truth unite with heart and soul" to give us the fullness of life.

None of this can be proven. This only can be experienced then known.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Proclaim the beauty of God’s plan for the family

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

I am writing to you again this week from Rome, at the start of the second week of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will run for two more weeks, when Pope Francis will celebrate the closing Mass on Oct. 25.

There are nearly 300 bishops here from every continent, and many priests, religious and lay people assisting them and the work of the synod.

It’s a beautiful experience for me of the universal nature, the “catholicity” of the church. You really get to see that the church herself is the “family of God” — made up of people from every nation in the world.

As you can imagine, all of us bring different experiences and opinions to the Synod Hall. We can get in the habit of thinking that “the church” is whatever we experience in our own parish or our own corner of the world. But the church is bigger than our own experience, something you see very clearly at the synod, when you are able to talk to representatives from the church in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia.

The work of the synod is divided into small groups according to language. There are three French groups, three Italian, two Spanish and one German. I am working in one of the four English-language groups. My group alone reflects the diversity and universality of the synod — there are 21 bishops, along with auditors, experts and fraternal delegates from 20 different countries!

We are working, line-by-line, sometimes word-by-word, through the document prepared to guide our discussions, which is called the Instrumentum Laboris.

It is important to remember that “synod” means assembly. It is not like a legislature or even a city council. Our work is to provide insight and counsel. We are here because Pope Francis has asked us to advise him on some of the crucial issues confronting married couples and families today.

And it is important to keep in mind that we are not “voting” on church teaching or discussing ways to change it.

At the end of the extraordinary synod last year, Pope Francis said there will be no “putting into question the fundamental truths of the sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, the openness to life.” And he has continued to emphasize that during this synod process.

Pope Francis is attending and listening carefully in our general sessions and I have to say, it is an extraordinary feeling to be in the presence of the Vicar of Christ as we are reflecting on the church’s mission and the needs of the family of God.

In my first intervention at the synod last week, I spoke to the Holy Father and the Synod fathers about the need for the church to proclaim from a solid biblical and theological foundation.

The word of God reveals our creator’s plan for his creation and for human history. This divine word is the authentic starting point for understanding the family’s vocation and mission.

The synod’s Instrumentum Laboris recognizes that we can discern a “divine pedagogy” in the history of salvation that unfolds in the sacred Scriptures.

To strengthen marriage and the family in our time, I believe the church must recover the divine pedagogy found in the scriptures. Just a few weeks ago, when he was in the United States, Pope Francis reminded us again — that God entrusted his loving plan for creation to the family.

As I see it, the crisis of the family in our time is, to some extent, a crisis of anthropology. Our culture has lost its sense of the meaning of the human person and creation. This loss is rooted in the loss of God.

In the face of this crisis, I believe the church must present a new evangelical catechesis on creation, as an essential element of the new evangelization. We must proclaim the beauty of God’s plan of love for creation, for the human person, and for the human family. Our new evangelization must proclaim an integral human ecology that reveals the nature, vocation and teleology of the human person as created by God.

And I believe the church needs to recover and reflect on the “family” images found in the scriptures and most ancient tradition, and in the universal church’s liturgy and popular piety: the human person as the imago Dei; the church as the mother of believers and the “family of God”; the family as the “domestic church”; and the Christian life as spiritual childhood of sons and daughters of God.

In the face of the widespread crisis of the family, I believe our society needs to hear once more the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s loving plan for creation and history, a plan that is centered in the family.

So keep praying for the synod this week and let’s pray for each other.

And let’s ask the intercession of the Holy Family to help us to illuminate, by our pastoral priorities and practice, how the family is the crucial “way” for the church and for God’s plan for creation.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

What a story in today’s Gospel!

This young man was trying so hard to be good. Following all of the rules, he thought, was what would make him good and acceptable in God's eyes.

Jesus, from the first words of their shared conversation, challenges him. When addressed by the young man as "good teacher," Jesus rejects this title and declares: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."

He doesn’t get it. He persists, because he wanted to be acceptable to God, good in God’s eyes, and he wanted to have eternal life. Again, he thought, following all of the rules and keeping them perfectly is what was pleasing to God.

But not only did Jesus tell him something he could not understand, the young man also could not do it, and he sadly walked away from Jesus.

Jesus asked him for everything. Jesus asked him to let go of all his possessions, his security, and the illusions of life and comfort. He asked him to give it all away, to give all of it to the poor, then to come and follow him.

The young man couldn’t do it. Giving it all up would be losing all control of his life. Giving it all up would mean he would be letting go, letting God — and he could not experience what Jesus said in other places: "If you want to find yourself, you must loose yourself; if you want to live, you must die; if you want to be first, you must be last."

He didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense.

Following the rules, in comparison, was easy and, most of all, it allowed him to be in control. He could never let go of that control. The only final response was to sadly walk away.

Jesus had a response, too.

He looked at him, he loved him, and he offered him the greatest gift as he recognized the one thing, the most important thing that was lacking — "Let go!"

In effect, Jesus was saying: "Understand that God loves you because God is love — not because you follow rules."

This story is important and foundational. Following rules is good for order and usually makes good sense. But it isn’t what makes God love us. God will do that and must do that because it is of God’s nature to love.

Accept it and discover its truth.

Be grateful that God is, that God is love, that God always loves, and that to let go is to find the gift.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The family is God’s dream for his creation

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

I am writing to you this week from Rome, where we have just begun the second day of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will run Oct. 4 to 25.

This synod is an important moment in the life of the universal church. The synod gives the world’s bishops a chance to come together with the pope to pray and reflect on the beauty of the family in God’s plan for the world and on the mission that every Christian family has in spreading the Gospel.

Going into the synod, there has been a lot of conversation in the global media centered on various controversies related to divorce and the meaning of marriage.

But Pope Francis is making it clear that he does not consider marriage and the family to be “problems” that need to be fixed.

In his opening address, the pope said the synod is not about our “personal opinions” and it is not a political convention “where people make deals and compromises.”

Instead, he said, the synod is called so that the world’s bishops can listen together and be guided by the Holy Spirit — “with faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, for the good of the Church and the Salus animarum [the salvation of souls].”

The pope believes that we possess a beautiful truth in the Scriptures and the church’s teaching Magisterium: the truth that the family is God’s way for creation and God’s great gift to the world — “God’s dream for his beloved creation,” as he put it in his opening homily for the synod.

During his recent apostolic visit to the United States, our Holy Father stressed these same points about the beauty and dignity of the family, which he said are rooted in the scriptures.

At the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, our Holy Father said: “The most beautiful thing God made — so the Bible tells us — was the family. He created man and woman. And he gave them everything. He entrusted the world to them. ... All the love he put into that marvelous creation, he entrusted to a family.”

For the pope, the family has an essential mission in God’s redemptive plan for the world. And that is what this synod is all about — understanding the challenges facing married couples and families in our society and rediscovering the beauty of the family’s mission in light of the Gospel and the Church’s teachings.

Also on our first day, we heard a long and inspiring speech by Cardinal Péter Erdö, the archbishop of Budapest, Hungary. He is the synod’s “Rapporteur,” entrusted with guiding the synod’s deliberations.

In his address, Cardinal Erdö spoke of marriage and family as a “vocation,” a personal calling from God and part of God’s “divine pedagogy.”

He said that husbands and wives and every family member are called to be missionary disciples and should see their families as a “domestic Church.”

Cardinal Erdö also discussed the Gospel’s teaching on marriage and described these teachings as a “true gospel and a font of joy” that offer men and women a way to find real happiness and to realize their purposes in the world.

Pope Francis also spoke of Jesus’ teachings on marriage in his opening homily:

“He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus reestablishes the order which was present from the beginning.”

Our discussions are ongoing, and I am encouraged by the positive and inspiring tone of these opening days.

So this week, please keep me and the bishops of the synod in your prayers. Let’s keep praying for one another in this important time for the universal Church.

And let’s ask for the intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to guide this synod — that the synod might result in a new proclamation of the beauty and joy of the family and how the family is the crucial “way” for the church and for God’s plan for society and the world.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

The questions was asked of Jesus: "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"

In Jesus', answer the word of God gets most interesting. Jesus replied: "What did Moses command you?"

They answered that Moses permitted divorce. Jesus gave a commentary stating that it was because of the hardness of their hearts that Moses allowed divorce. But then he did what he always did best.

He spoke the highest ideal, the most challenging call, and the truth that he always gave, because he knew the peace and wholeness that truth would provide. In this case, he stated that God’s intention in marriage was and is that two become one.

God's desire is for love and commitment to reach an all time high in marriage. God's ideal is that two would love so deeply that it would be unspeakable and nearly impossible to divide or separate them.

What could be more compelling or more consoling than to know that God desires for a man and woman, in marriage, to experience oneness, wholeness, completeness with one another — and all without ever loosing one's own identity or uniqueness?

If this is so, then perhaps this is why it is unwise to move in with one another, or begin sharing the marital intimacies with one another, or rush the marital commitments, until two people have come to share such a love and truly believe that they desire and are capable of growing it forever.

The proof is in the love, not in the ceremony or document. Those confirm what is.

This too, perhaps, is why there is so much controversy around the issue of gay marriage. From the point of view of many people of faith, they point precisely to this passage of Genesis to proclaim that it is clearly God's intention that marriage belongs only to men and women.

The response from those in support of gay marriage would flow just as strongly out of the Gospel passage today.

If Jesus would speak so highly of the love of marriage, who wouldn’t want this? This is exactly why the fight is so intense.

Gay men and women want to share the same ideal, challenge, call and commitment. They believe in the same truth and in the same love. They believe they shouldn’t be prevented from sharing this.

Add to this question the historical reality that continues to this day and certainly was present in the time of Jesus. It existed among some Jews historically and certainly in the lives of their neighbors – polygamy.

Some men had many wives. How did or could this ideal of Jesus ever be realized between one man and a group of women?

Think.

Ponder.

Question.

Open mind and heart.

Listen.

Probe.

It is precisely such realities that will eventually show who we are.

Are we really people of the kingdom?

Listening like a little child to God’s word — to Jesus — is listening with total trust, and with openness of heart, soul and mind.

Listening to Jesus and to God’s word can lead us in many directions and to many places. Creating more laws and condemnations after the fact — that is, after a marriage has disintegrated and died — is not what is needed.

Perhaps more work and ministry like that of Marriage Encounter is what is needed.

To support, teach, love, guide, and offer healing and understanding to those called to such an ideal, is the real work of every Christian and the real work of the church.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.