The following is adapted from the conclusion of an address titled, “Reflections on America’s New Religions,” delivered by video to the 23rd Congress of Catholics and Public Life at San Pablo University in Madrid, Spain. The full text is available on ArchbishopGomez.org.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen. And the Church has been “antiracist” from the beginning. All are included in her message of salvation.
Jesus taught us to know and love God as our Father, and he called his Church to carry that good news to the ends of the earth — to gather, from every race, tribe and people, the one worldwide family of God.
That was the meaning of Pentecost, when men and women from every nation under heaven heard the gospel in their own native language. That is what St. Paul meant when he said that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.
Of course, in the Church we have not always lived up to our beautiful principles, or carried out the mission entrusted to us by Christ.
But the world does not need a new secular religion to replace Christianity. It needs you and me to be better witnesses, better Christians. Let us begin by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting away spiritual poisons like resentment and envy.
Personally, I find inspiration in the saints and holy figures in my country’s history.
In this moment, I am looking especially to the Servant of God Dorothy Day. For me, she offers an important witness for how Catholics can work to change our social order through radical detachment and love for the poor grounded in the beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and the works of mercy.
She also had a keen sense that before we can change the hearts of others, we have to change ourselves.
She once said, “I see only too clearly how bad people are. I wish I did not see it so. It is my own sins that give me such clarity. But I cannot worry much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of my own. … My prayer from day to day is that God will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”
This is the attitude that we need right now, when our society is so polarized and divided.
I am also drawing inspiration from the witness of Venerable Augustus Tolton. His is an amazing and truly American story. He was born in slavery, escaped into freedom with his mother, and became the first black man to be ordained a priest in my country.
Father Tolton once said, “The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery — that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavors to free us of both.”
Today, we need this confidence in the power of the gospel.
In this hour I think the Church must be a voice for individual conscience and tolerance, and we need to promote greater humility and realism about the human condition. Acknowledging our common humanity means recognizing our common frailty. The truth is that we are all sinners, people who want to do the right thing, but often do not.
That does not mean we remain passive in the face of social injustice. But we do need to insist that fraternity cannot be built through animosity or division. True religion offers a path for even the worst sinners to find redemption.
We also need to hold on to the supernatural understanding of God’s providence, the reality that God’s loving hand still guides our lives and the course of nations.
The Church is preparing to celebrate the 490th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which marks the true spiritual founding of America.
Already, we are seeing signs of an authentic religious awakening going on in America, underneath all the controversy of our politics, the continued clouds of the pandemic, all the uncertainty about where our country is heading.
I am confident that we will see this spiritual awakening grow and spread in the coming years. And Our Lady’s words at Tepeyac continue to strengthen and inspire me: “Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection?”
The Church’s mission in this cultural moment — as it is in every time and place — is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the true path to liberation from every slavery and injustice, spiritual and material.
In our preaching and practice, and especially in our love for our neighbors, let us bear witness to God’s beautiful vision of our common humanity — our common origin and common destiny in God.