‘Love is why God created the world.” It seems quite the claim, maybe especially when turning on the news these days or, in some cases, looking out the window. These certainly are not the worst of times, but certainly far from the best. Sadness, anxiety, fear, and despair definitely seem a temptation for many, if the “#Sad” protest signs I’ve seen on placards are any indication. There’s a fuel of anger and violence that’s not helping anyone. Into this misery comes the new pastoral letter from Los Angeles archbishop José Gómez: “For Greater Things You Were Born.”
A title might not get more aspirational than that. “God’s beautiful plan of love for our lives and our world” might sound simply like something a priest would say. But when you consider some of what he says he sees, he might just get the ecumenical hearing that would do us all a world of good.
Gómez, an immigrant from Mexico, worries about what radical secularization has meant:
As the reality of God is fading away, the reality of the human person is disappearing, too. We are becoming strangers to our own selves. We no longer know who we are or what is inside us.
What he points to as some of the troubles and injustices of the day are far from mere churchy interests:
We face many troubles and injustices in our society: the sad persistence of racist thinking and practices; the bitter divisions along lines of money and education, class and family background; our cruel indifference to the sufferings of immigrants within our borders; the coercive agendas to redefine marriage and sexuality and “normalize” abortion and euthanasia; the brutal realities of human trafficking; the epidemics of pornography and addictions; the inequities in our criminal justice system, starting with our continued practice of executions; and the violence and deviancy in our popular “entertainment.”
He sees the mix of misery and beauty of the world and of our particular American culture, and adds:
The world is made for the glory of God and the world was made out of love! What God makes he loves and delights in, and all of nature is like a book through which God reveals his love for us.
At a time when we’re drowning in hyper-politicization about identity, creating seemingly insurmountable obstacles to human encounters, the archbishop insists, too, on love:
Love is why God creates each one of us. We are not made as anonymous members of the human race. To each one of us, the living God continues to speak words of love, as he spoke to the prophets: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
He worries most that “our society has lost sense of the truth about the precious nature and dignity of the human person.”
In contrast with where we largely are, he looks to the possibilities for humanity:
Jesus became man in order that we might become God. This is not an abstract statement of theology. It is the destiny and meaning of your life and mine. Everything in our ordinary lives — our work and study, our loves, our family life, our works of charity, even our recreation — all of it is made to be transfigured in the light of Christ.
And so what does that mean? What can be done? Why does it matter?
First of all, this isn’t mere pious nonsense, and it is not negated by sin, especially the sins of people who profess to be Christian: “Sin does not get the last word in our lives.”
The archbishop sees a better way:
We should live every day conscious of our God-given nobility as men and women made in God’s image. But we should also live every day with deep humility and gratitude, never forgetting where we would be without God’s mercy!
And the Beatitudes would be a good place to get started if we are to rediscover the greatness of man, a greatness that comes from living better, which we can do when we appreciate and acknowledge all of creation — including ourselves — with gratitude:
Through the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us what we should desire and what we should be seeking in our lives — he calls us to be poor in spirit and pure in heart, to be meek and merciful and to mourn in solidarity with those who are sorrowful; he calls us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and to be peacemakers in our relationships and in our society.
These and the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and prudence, justice, temperance, and courage may just come to change our lives and the world around us. It may just make for an amazing grace so much sweeter and more tender than much of what we see on the news, on the streets, and in our lives, cyber or otherwise.
Something greater is something we could all afford to consider signing up for and passing along.