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America needs ‘new sense of our common humanity,’ says Red Mass homilist

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez on Oct. 1 asked the Supreme Court justices, government officials, lawyers and other members of the judiciary gathered at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to renew a commitment to a government that “serves the human person.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the homily during the 65th annual Red Mass Oct. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

He was the homilist at the 65th annual Red Mass in the nation’s capital. Celebrated the Sunday before the opening of the Supreme Court’s term, the annual Mass invokes the Holy Spirit upon those who are responsible for the administration of justice.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant. Concelebrants included Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout, Mario E. Dorsonville and Roy E. Campbell Jr.; Archbishop Gomez; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va.; Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.

The distinguished guests at the Mass included five members of the Supreme Court: John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States; and Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.; and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez spoke about St. Junipero Serra, the newest American saint who was one of the founding missionaries of Los Angeles as part of a string of missions in California and was canonized by Pope Francis during the pontiff’s 2015 visit to Washington.

By canonizing him, Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis was making a point that “we should honor St. Junipero Serra as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States,” since the missionaries came here before the pilgrims and began their outreach before the nation’s first president was inaugurated.

“It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political,” he said. “America’s first beginnings were spiritual.”

Those missionaries, along with the colonists and statesmen later on, laid the groundwork for “a nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs,” said Archbishop Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The reason the Red Mass is so important each year, Archbishop Gomez said, is because “there is a time for politics and a time for prayer. This is a day for prayer.”

The readings for the Mass included the story of Pentecost, which Archbishop Gomez said “reveals the Creator’s beautiful dream for the human race,” where people from different nations were brought together through the Holy Spirit, who spoke to each of them in their native tongues.

“The mission that Jesus gave (the church) is the beautiful mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God,” said Archbishop Gomez. “In God’s eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers. … When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children, sons and daughters made in his image.”

Archbishop Gomez noted that before God created the earth, he knew each person he would create and had a plan for each of their lives.

“Every life is sacred, and every life has a purpose in God’s creation,” he said.

The Founding Fathers understood this teaching so well that they called the truths “self-evident,” said Archbishop Gomez.

“America’s founders believed that the only justification for government is to serve the human person, who is created in God’s image; who is endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities; and who is called by God to a transcendent destiny,” said Archbishop Gomez.

Addressing the guests at the Mass, Archbishop Gomez said, “My brothers and sisters, you all share in the responsibility for this great government.”

He called public service a “noble vocation” that requires honesty, courage, prudence, humility, prayer and sacrifice.

“So today, let us ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts and renew our commitment to this vision of a government that serves the human person,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Let us commit ourselves to an America that cares for the young and the elderly, for the poor and the sick; an America where the hungry find bread and the homeless a place to live; an America that welcomes the immigrant and refugee and offers the prisoner a second chance.”

While at times our nation has failed to live up to its founding vision, Archbishop Gomez said, “that should not make us give in to cynicism or despair.”

“For all our weakness and failure: America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God,” he added.

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins, but he also is “giving every one of us the power to forgive those who trespass against us,” said Archbishop Gomez, who noted that this gift of forgiveness is “part of the unfinished revolution in American society.”

“True forgiveness sets us free from the cycles of resistance and retaliation; it sets us free to seek reconciliation and healing,” said Archbishop Gomez. “”And this is what we need in America today — a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity. We need to treat others as our brothers and our sisters — even those who oppose or disagree with us. The mercy and love that we desire — this is the mercy and love that we must show to our neighbors.”

The Mass is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, a network that aims to enhance fellowship among Catholic leaders in the Washington area and serve the archbishop of Washington.

By Kelly Sankowski, a staff member of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Members of judiciary should seek justice, mercy in their work, Red Mass homilist says

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Those involved in the administration of law should seek justice and mercy in their work, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Oct. 2.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl after the annual Red Mass Oct. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl after the annual Red Mass Oct. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

“Those two virtues must intersect in our lives and actions,” said the archbishop, who was the homilist at the 64th annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

The Red Mass in the nation’s capital is celebrated just before the Supreme Court begins its term in October; opening day for the court this year was Oct. 3.

The Mass seeks God’s blessing and guidance on those who work in the law, including judges, diplomats, government officials and attorneys. The Mass also was attended by university officials and law professors and students.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant of the Mass, which was attended by five Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Other government officials at the Mass included U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.; and Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Archbishop Hebda noted that those present at the Red Mass felt the absence of Antonin Scalia, a Catholic who faithfully attended the Mass during his nearly three decades as a Supreme Court associate justice. Scalia died Feb. 13 at age 79.

“He (Scalia) was someone who seemed to understand the necessity of exploring the connection between justice and mercy,” the Minnesota archbishop said. “In addressing law students at the University of St. Thomas in my archdiocese just last year, shortly before he passed away, he stressed the importance of their moral formation, stating that ‘the rule of law is always second to the law of love.’”

With that statement, Scalia was not showing a lack of appreciation for the rule of law, but he was demonstrating “a heightened appreciation for the importance of the law of love and for the mercy that flows from it in the practice of law and in the administration of justice,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Noting that Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the church to reflect on God’s infinite mercy and the call for believers to be instruments of mercy, the Red Mass homilist said the pope “has noted that mercy ‘does not approach cases, but persons and their pain.’” The pope, he added, has said, “Mercy gets its hands dirty. It touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others.”

Archbishop Hebda said this personal approach to sharing mercy is especially important for the work of law. “We need to remember that real people are at the heart of what we do and are affected by the decisions we make,” he said.

The Minnesota archbishop said the Catholic Church respects the important work for the common good carried out by government leaders and those who administer justice.

“Men and women of goodwill throughout this nation depend on you to protect their liberties,” Archbishop Hebda said, noting how Pope Francis during his visit to the White House last year encouraged public servants to build a tolerant and inclusive society that safeguards people’s rights and rejects unjust discrimination.

Gathering together to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the administration of justice is an appropriate response to facing difficult challenges, he said, noting that this year’s liturgy was being held “at this critical moment in our nation’s history, at this time when America seems to be almost paralyzed by a political polarization that impedes our ability to address effectively a whole host of pressing needs.”

Archbishop Hebda noted several contemporary problems “in a society in which shopping malls and discos and schools have all too often become places of unthinkable horror, at a time when old hatreds and prejudices seem to be rearing their ugly heads, or when our first freedoms are so readily put at risk.”

But he said that through prayer and action, people can take on the “privilege role as the hands of God’s mercy” to bring healing to the world, a work that people are called to do together, and then “we can, by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, do amazing things.”

Noting the importance of common prayer and mutual support, Archbishop Hebda said that can foster “faith capable of moving the mountains of despair and division, faith capable of pursuing justice while manifesting mercy, (and) faith capable of making a difference in our lives and in our communities.”

The Red Mass in Washington is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, an organization that provides spiritual, intellectual, charitable and social opportunities for Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the archbishop of Washington.

The concelebrants included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; Archbishop Hebda; Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Virginia; Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout and Mario E. Dorsonville. Twenty-one priests also concelebrated the Mass.

 

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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