By Christopher Wells
In his opening address for the Fall General Assembly of the American Bishops, USCCB President Archbishop José Gómez said he saw many “challenging signs” as the country emerges from the pandemic – but also “signs of hope.”
A spiritual awakening
The Archbishop of Los Angeles explained that he sees a “spiritual awakening” in America, as “people are starting to examine what they truly believe and what they value most deeply in their lives.”
American society, he said, “seems to be losing its story,” a story rooted in a biblical worldview and Judeo-Christian values, “a story of the human person created in God’s image and invested with an earthly vocation to build a society where people could live in freedom, with equality and dignity.”
That narrative, however, seems to be breaking down in a highly secularized society, Archbishop Gómez said. He explained, “We all need God to help us make sense of our lives; so when we try to live without God, we can become confused.”
The beautiful story of Christ’s love
He said Americans are looking for a new story to give meaning to their lives.
“But, my brothers,” he said, addressing his fellow bishops, “our neighbours do not need a new story. What they need is to hear the true story – the beautiful story of Christ’s love for us, His dying and rising from the dead for us, and the hope He brings to our lives.”
Archbishop Gómez told the Bishops, “I believe the duty of our moment is this beautiful responsibility that we have to tell the Christian story once again to the people of our time.”
People are searching for God, and are “willing to let themselves be found by God,” he said, adding, “I believe they are ready to listen once again to the Word of truth and the Word of life. I think there are also people in our society – those who grew up without religion – who are ready to hear the Word for the first time.”
The Church’s missionary identity
The USCCB president called to mind Pope Francis’ call to the Church to return to its missionary identity, a call that the Holy Father has sounded from the beginning of his pontificate. “The Church exists to evangelize,” said Archbishop Gómez. “There is no other reason for the Church. To be a Christian is to be a missionary disciple.”
That, he said, “is why the initiatives we have taken as a Conference of Bishops are absolutely vital.” He pointed in particular to the Bishops’ document on the Eucharistic mystery and their pastoral plan for Eucharistic revival, both of which will be voted on by the Bishops during their fall gathering.
Archbishop Gómez insisted that people are not saved through plans and programs, but only through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. He said the Eucharistic revival is a missionary project, aimed precisely at “drawing the faithful deeper into the mystery” of the Eucharist, to awaken a sense of what Pope John Paul II called “Eucharistic amazement.” And he encouraged his brother bishops to share their own personal encounters of the Eucharist.
The key to the civilization of love
The Sacrament of the Eucharist, said the Archbishop, “is the gateway key to the civilization of love that we long to create.” He reminded the Bishops that while Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, He is also present “in the flesh and blood of our neighbours,” especially in the poor and the suffering. “We must see in all the image of the living God,” he said.
“Our beautiful task,” Archbishop Gómez told his fellow Bishops in conclusion, “is to continue to tell the Catholic story, to reveal Jesus to our people – to place their hands in His hand so they can walk by His light and follow Him to eternity, to the love that never ends.”
The full text of Archbishop Gomez’ address can be found on the USCCB website.