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Let Jesus be your personal trainer, L.A. archbishop urges teens

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LOS ANGELES — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the “City of Saints” conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.

“Your desire to live your faith and share your faith; it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring,” he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual “City of Saints” conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.

Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.

The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.

Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor eucharistic procession to open a area designated as “Sacred Space,” where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend..

“I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight, ‘It is good that we are here, Lord!’ Thanks be to God!” the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.

“Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain, the mountain of God,” he continued. “It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel — St. Peter, St. James and St. John.”

“We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard, the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gomez said.

That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus “shining like the sun,” his clothes turning into “white light,” and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing “out of nowhere.”

Imagining what they saw “reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery, a cosmic reality, the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are part of the plan,” the archbishop told the teens.

“The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun, just like we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today,” Archbishop Gomez explained. “This is God’s plan for your lives — to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son.”

“Jesus is the answer” as to how to do this, he said. “Listen to him. This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher — your ‘life coach,’ your ‘personal trainer.’ Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness.”

Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus — prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.

He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so “you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go.”

“When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel,” Archbishop Gomez said. “It is way better than checking your Instagram feed.”

“The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God,” Archbishop Gomez said. “The more we reflect on the Gospels, the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world.”

“The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him,” he said. “The more we want to be with him in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation.”

By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, “slowly, we have a ‘transfiguration’ in our lives. That is how it works.”

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‘In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments that lead to deceit and hypocritical ways of skirting around God’s law, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass  in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano handout via EPA) See POPE-HOMILY-DESOLATION Sept. 27, 2017.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano/EPA) 

Christians are called to be “just in mercy” rather than following the letter of the law but not the heart of the law, the pope said Feb. 23 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“To those who wanted to put him to the test, to those who thought with this logic of ‘you can do this,’ he regards them, not here but in another passage of the Gospel, as hypocrites,” the pope said.

The day’s Gospel reading told of the Pharisees attempting to trap Jesus by asking his thoughts on Moses granting permission for men to divorce their wives.

“Jesus doesn’t answer saying whether it is lawful or not lawful; he does not enter into their case-based reasoning. Because they thought about faith only in terms of you can or you cant” do this or that, he said.

However, the pope noted, Jesus uses the truth to trap them, calling them out on their “hard-hearted” nature, which is precisely what they used to justify their actions.

Instead of being “deceitful” and “hypocritical” like the Pharisees, he continued, Jesus focuses on truth and mercy. Although Jesus confirms that leaving one spouse for another is adultery, he doesn’t reject those who are considered adulterous.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus speaks to adulterers and says, “‘I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ How is this possible?” the pope asked.

“The path of Jesus, it is clearly seen, is the path from case-based reasoning to truth and mercy,” he said.

Christians need the grace of God in order to pass from a hypocritical mentality of case-based reasoning that views justice and mercy as two separate entities, he said.

“They are not two: it is only one, one thing,” Pope Francis said. “In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice. May the Lord help us to understand this path, which isn’t easy but it will make us happy and it will make many people happy.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope holds Christmas audience with Vatican employees, families

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity, his son, Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God's gift to humanity -- his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity — his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Also be sure to thank God for the gift of employment and pray for all those who are jobless or experience injustice and exploitation at work, he told Vatican employees during a special audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Dec. 22.

As Christmas carols in multiple languages played over the public announcement system, many children offered small gifts or notes to the pope, who celebrated his 80th birthday Dec. 17. Some people wore colorful Christmas sweaters, or others, including one small baby, had on red Santa Claus hats.

Multiple generations were present, with employees allowed to bring their parents, grandparents, children and newborns. Families whose members had special needs were seated in the front and were each greeted personally by the pope after the audience. The pope’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, alternated between providing security and doing cellphone-camera duty when he obliged people’s requests to take their picture with the pope.

The pope continued a tradition he began in 2014 of inviting people who work at the Vatican, along with their family members and loved ones, to receive pre-Christmas greetings. The now-annual meeting follows a longer-held tradition of the pope meeting with members of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administrative offices, as well as cardinals living in Rome and members of the papal household.

Pope Francis thanked the Vatican employees, most of them laypeople, for their hard work and dedication, recognizing that the small size of Vatican City often made coordination and cooperation a lot easier.

“We always have to thank God” for the gift of employment, he said, which is important for an individual’s well-being and entire families, he said.

He then asked for prayers for all those around the world, “who do not have work, or else, who often do jobs that are inappropriate, poorly paid or harmful to one’s health.”

The pope requested that everyone, according to their responsibilities, make sure jobs respected people’s dignity and their families and followed the Catholic Church’s social teaching.

The Vatican, above all, he said, must follow these Gospel guidelines, which also meant doing nothing deceitful or illegal in its employment arrangements — “nothing under the table.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @carolglatz.

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Jesus promises joy, but life’s not always a party, Pope Francis says

May 30th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While Jesus promises great joy, being a Christian doesn’t mean that life will become all sunshine and roses, Pope Francis said.

The joy Jesus promises comes from knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and receiving the strength and hope needed to get through the hard times, the pope said.

“We have to tell the truth: not every part of Christian life is a party. Not all of it,” the pope said May 30 during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

Challenges such as illness, having troubles with a family member, a paycheck that doesn’t cover expenses or defaulting on a mortgage and losing one’s home are not uncommon, he said in his homily, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

There are “many problems, we have many. But Jesus tells us, ‘Do not be afraid.’”

The pope said there are two kinds of sadness or grief: one that leads to despair, and one that is at peace with joy in hope.

There is “the sadness that happens to all of us when we head down a path that is no good,” such as when we try to “buy joy, worldly happiness,” he said, but “in the end, there is an emptiness in us, a sadness.”

“This is the sadness of bad happiness,” he said, while the happiness that comes from Christ “is a joy in hope that will come.”

The pope said Jesus describes “the sadness that turns into joy” in the day’s reading from the Gospel of St. John (16:20-24) when Jesus told his disciples that “you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

He said Jesus explains how life’s difficulties and trials can be endured with a peaceful heart by using the example of a woman in labor, who experiences a suffering that leads to the joy felt with the child finally in her arms.

That final joy is “the joy of Jesus, a purified joy” that can never be taken away, Pope Francis said.

“The sign that we have this joy in hope” is a soul at peace, despite life’s trials and difficulties, he said.

“If you are at peace, you have the seed of this joy that will come.”

This “is the message of the church today: Do not be afraid,” he said, and “be courageous in suffering.”

“Think about what comes after with the Lord; afterwards comes joy, after the darkness comes the sun.”

 

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