Catholics, a people of thanksgiving

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
As we celebrate the cherished national holiday of Thanksgiving, it is a time to recall the foundations of this long weekend that breathes life into the heart and soul of our nation. George Washington, our nation’s first president, with the backing of Congress in 1789, declared the last Thursday of November as a day set apart for Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, the harvest and much more. President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 called for the renewal of this day set apart for Thanksgiving to inspire greater unity in our nation in the midst of the Civil War. This many years later our national time of thanksgiving can soften and heal the divisions that plague our nation in 2023.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

As Catholics, we are inherently by God’s grace a people of thanksgiving, most notably whenever we gather at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist, the great prayer of gratitude for the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ for the gift of salvation. An abiding spirit of thanksgiving is at the center of the current Eucharistic revival, a permanent disposition that allows us to live in a manner worthy of our calling within and beyond the hallowed walls of our churches.

The prayers that are proclaimed at each Eucharistic celebration embrace the reality of thanksgiving from hearts and minds that are open to God’s transforming grace. At the beginning of the Preface, the portal of the Eucharistic prayer and Consecration, the priest declares. “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, your Word through whom you made all things.”

This marvelous expression of gratitude is already unfolding at the Preparation of the Gifts when the priest proclaims, “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation for through your goodness we have received this bread and wine which we offer to you, fruit of the earth and of the vine, and the work of human hands, they will become for us the bread of life and spiritual drink.” The prayers over the bread and wine are offered separately at the altar and after each, the congregation responds, “Blessed be God forever.” What a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving!

One of the most powerful expressions of thanksgiving at the center of worship is Psalm 100. You can feel the joy and read how it captures the spirit of the faithful people of Israel so many centuries ago.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

May the Holy Spirit bestow upon us this marvelous spirit of praise and thanksgiving as we funnel into our churches and gather around our family tables for Thanksgiving.

The national holiday of Thanksgiving has deep roots in our Judaic Christian tradition. As we give thanks to the Lord on the day itself and throughout the weekend, which is the feast of Christ the King, the culminating celebration of the church year, may the prayer for unity, and a greater spirit of loving generosity be at the center of our intentions.

“But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made the two into one by breaking down the barrier of hostility…As a result, you are no longer strangers and foreigners. Rather, you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:13-14, 19-20)

Black Catholics, a gift to our diocese and nation

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
The Feast of All Saints is the portal at the beginning of November that invites all of the living members of the church to transcend time to see the Cloud of Witnesses that surround the throne of the Lamb in Heaven. The lives of the holy ones reveal God’s ultimate plan for us in eternity, and a well-defined pathway for this life to reach the goal.

In the book of Revelation, the heavenly vision is comprised of a “vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.” (7:9) What a great gift of hope the apostle John has given to the church for every generation until the Lord comes again.

In manifold ways the Lord Jesus molded all of the saints in their uniqueness into his image and likeness. Among this number, too great to count, are the six African American causes for canonization. They are remarkable women and men whom God called out of the darkness of slavery and unforgiving segregation into the light of sanctity and dignity. They are Mother Mary Lange, Father Augustus Tolton, Mother Henriette DeLille, Pierre Toussaint, Julia Greeley, and, of course, our own Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman. They are outstanding witnesses of faithful discipleship for the universal church and even more so throughout November which is dedicated to Black Catholic History.

We know that the church was insnared in the evils of slavery and its aftermath, and for this we are called to repentance and the light of a new day. This month we also want to celebrate the church as a loving mother who nurtured the seeds of faith, hope and love through loving service and education within many African American settings.

St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians is the paradigm for the church as the beating heart of Christ. “Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1Thessalonians 2:7-9 and 13)

This was Sister Thea’s experience when the religious brothers, sisters and priests shared their lives in the manner that St. Paul describes. “I was drawn to examine and accept the Catholic faith because of the day to day lived witness of Catholic Christians who first loved me, then shared with me their story, their values, their beliefs; who first loved me, then invited me to share with them in community, prayer and mission. As a child I did not recognize evangelization at work in my life. I did recognize love, service, community, prayer and faith.”

Last weekend on Saturday at the outset of Black Catholic History month, I participated in a parade, walkabout and program in Jonestown, Mississippi in honor of the late Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, a sister of the Names of Jesus and Mary. This religious community was founded by Eulalie Durocher in 1843 in Quebec, Canada. Sister Kay had overseen the development of various Jonestown community services and programs during her thirty years of ministry. The gift is that they continue through local leadership among this generation of Christian collaborators.

On Sunday I participated in the Women’s Day Program sponsored by the Holy Ghost Ladies Auxiliary. Our diocese was fully immersed in the quest for justice and peace in the late Jim Crow years and Civil Rights era, a reality that was gratefully acknowledged during the program. All of this is to say that along with the six Black Catholic women and men on the path of canonization, there are countless other Black Catholics here in our diocese and throughout our nation who are now witnessing, serving, teaching, and evangelizing because the gift they once received continues to flourish.

The participants at the Synod that recently concluded in Rome at the end of October had representation from nearly every county in the world, or as we proclaim, from every nation and tribe, people and language. For them and for all of us may the Holy Spirit deepen our commitment to unity, participation and mission. With St. Paul and Sister Thea, may the beating heart of Christ direct our steps in this life and enflame our vision for the promise of eternal life.

Causa de Seis Santos, un regalo para nuestra diócesis y nación

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

La Fiesta de Todos los Santos es el portal a principios de noviembre que invita a todos los miembros vivos de la iglesia a trascender el tiempo para ver la Nube de Testigos que rodean el trono del Cordero en el Cielo. Las vidas de los santos revelan el plan supremo de Dios para nosotros en la eternidad y un camino bien definido para que esta vida alcance la meta.

En el libro de Apocalipsis, la visión celestial se compone de una “…gran multitud de todas las naciones, razas, lenguas y pueblos. Estaban en pie delante del trono y delante del Cordero, y eran tantos que nadie podía contarlos. Iban vestidos de blanco y llevaban palmas en las manos”. (7:9)

¡Qué gran regalo de esperanza el apóstol Juan ha dado a la iglesia para cada generación hasta que el Señor regrese!

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

De muchas maneras el Señor Jesús moldeó a todos los santos en su singularidad a su imagen y semejanza. Entre este número demasiado grande para contar se encuentran las seis causas afroamericanas de canonización. Son mujeres y hombres extraordinarios a quienes Dios llamó de la oscuridad de la esclavitud y la segregación implacable a la luz de la santidad y la dignidad. Ellos son la Madre Mary Lange, el Padre Augustus Tolton, la Madre Henriette DeLille, Pierre Toussaint, Julia Greeley y, por supuesto, nuestra propia Sierva de Dios, la Hermana Thea Bowman. Ellos son testigos sobresalientes del fiel discipulado de la iglesia universal y más aún durante todo el mes de noviembre, que está dedicado a la Historia Católica Negra.

Sabemos que la iglesia quedó atrapada en los males de la esclavitud y sus consecuencias, y por eso estamos llamados al arrepentimiento y a la luz de un nuevo día. Este mes también queremos celebrar a la iglesia como una madre amorosa que cultivó las semillas de la fe, la esperanza y el amor a través del servicio amoroso y la educación en muchos entornos afroamericanos.

Las palabras de San Pablo a los Tesalonicenses son el paradigma de la iglesia como corazón palpitante de Cristo. “Aunque muy bien hubiéramos podido hacerles sentir el peso de nuestra autoridad como apóstoles de Cristo, nos hicimos como niños entre ustedes. Como una madre que cría y cuida a sus propios hijos, así también les tenemos a ustedes tanto cariño que hubiéramos deseado darles, no sólo el evangelio de Dios, sino hasta nuestras propias vidas. ¡Tanto hemos llegado a quererlos! Hermanos, ustedes se acuerdan de cómo trabajábamos y luchábamos para ganarnos la vida. Trabajábamos día y noche, a fin de no ser una carga para ninguno de ustedes mientras les anunciábamos el evangelio de Dios. Por esto, de nuestra parte, damos siempre gracias a Dios, pues cuando ustedes escucharon el mensaje de Dios que nosotros les predicamos, lo recibieron como mensaje de Dios y no como mensaje de hombres. Y en verdad es el mensaje de Dios, el cual produce sus resultados en ustedes los que creen.” (1 Tesalonicenses 2:7-9 y 13)

Esta fue la experiencia de la hermana Thea cuando los hermanos, hermanas y sacerdotes religiosos compartieron sus vidas de la manera que describe San Pablo. “Me sentí atraída a examinar y aceptar la fe católica debido al testimonio vivido día a día de los cristianos católicos que primero me amaron y luego compartieron conmigo su historia, sus valores, sus creencias; quienes primero me amaron, luego me invitaron a compartir con ellos en comunidad, oración y misión. Cuando era niño no reconocía la evangelización trabajando en mi vida. Reconocí el amor, el servicio, la comunidad, la oración y la fe”.

El sábado pasado, al comienzo del mes de la Historia Católica Negra, participé en un desfile, caminata y programa en Jonestown, Mississippi, en honor a la fallecida Hermana Kay Burton, SNJM, una hermana de los Nombres de Jesús y María. Esta comunidad religiosa fue fundada por Eulalie Durocher en 1843 en Quebec, Canadá. La hermana Kay había supervisado el desarrollo de varios servicios y programas comunitarios de Jonestown durante sus treinta años de ministerio. El regalo es que continúen a través del liderazgo local entre esta generación de colaboradores cristianos.

El domingo participé en el programa del Día de la Mujer patrocinado por la Auxiliar de Damas del Espíritu Santo. Nuestra diócesis estuvo completamente inmersa en la búsqueda de la justicia y la paz en los últimos años de Jim Crow y la era de los Derechos Civiles, una realidad que fue reconocida con gratitud durante el programa. Todo esto quiere decir que junto con las seis mujeres y hombres católicos negros en el camino de la canonización, hay muchos otros católicos negros, aquí en nuestra diócesis y en toda nuestra nación, que ahora están testificando, sirviendo, enseñando y evangelizando porque el don que alguna vez recibieron continúa floreciendo.

Los participantes en el Sínodo, que concluyó recientemente en Roma a finales de octubre, tuvieron representación de casi todos los condados del mundo, o como proclamamos, de cada nación, tribu, pueblo y lengua. Que el Espíritu Santo profundice por ellos y por todos nosotros nuestro compromiso de unidad, participación y misión.

Con San Pablo y la hermana Thea, que el corazón palpitante de Cristo dirija nuestros pasos en esta vida e inflame nuestra visión de la promesa de la vida eterna.

Undertaking the Lord’s Great Commission

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! (Psalm 8:2)

During the third weekend of October, the Propagation of the Faith, the world-wide mission arm of the Catholic Church, is at the forefront of World Mission Sunday. This year’s theme chosen by Pope Francis was “Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move.” The Holy Father again shed light on the Emmaus story when the risen Lord walked alongside two forlorn disciples, crushed by the crucifixion. In that encounter their hearts began to burn while walking, they recognized the stranger at table in the breaking of the bread and hurried on eagle’s wings to the other disciples to announce the Good News of the risen Lord’s appearance.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

World Mission Sunday magnifies the Great Commission of the Lord, the work of the church every day and in each generation to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations with hearts inflamed at the Eucharistic table, and a joyful sense of going in peace to love and serve the Lord.
There is not a nation on the planet that is beyond the reach of the proclamation of the Good News and the gradual inculturation of the Gospel. Although the channels of modern communication are used widely and can traverse the most remote areas, the church is most faithful to the Lord’s mandate where she has boots on the ground.
The light of the Gospel is often repulsed by the darkness of this world, but God’s grace prevails and many women and men, at home and abroad, embrace the Cross in order to be the Lord’s faithful witnesses. The sacrifice is often heroic in countries where religious persecution is virulent. The yearly review of discrimination and oppression that at times ends in martyrdom, exposes an appalling reality for those under daily duress. Yet, the voice of the Gospel cannot be silenced.

Most of the time those who labor in the Lord’s vineyard where lack of work is never an issue, do so below the radar. All of the church’s corporal and spiritual works of mercy, her commitment to justice and peace, to education, and to health care are all linked to the core work of evangelization. We are who we are and do what we do because we belong to Jesus Christ. “The gift we have received, give as a gift.” (Matthew 10:8)

The Gospel calls forth the best in others and cultivates the grace of a generous soul. “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he or she will surely not lose their reward.”

Pope Francis, like Pope Benedict and Pope St. John Paul II in our post-modern world, have been joyful missionary disciples, embodying the Gospel from the center of the church and going to the margins of our world to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ with words of hope, justice and peace. Consider Pope Francis memorable pilgrimages in recent years.

During an ecumenical trip to South Sudan and the Republic of the Congo he prayed for reconciliation and a new day of hope for these war-torn nations. During the pandemic he brought the light of Gospel hope where the church has been decimated by war and internecine strive. In Canada he asked forgiveness for the abuse inflicted upon the indigenous peoples by the church and the Canadian government. In Mongolia, he celebrated Mass with the entire Catholic population which is less than the number of persons in our larger parishes.

At this time of terror, tragedy and war in the Holy Lands, Pope Francis has pleaded that “the only side we should be taking is the side of peace.” Whether it is in our own families, in our diocesan parishes exploring the deeper meaning of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, or the world-wide Synod on Synodality, the beginning and the end of our efforts is the faithful undertaking of the Lord’s Great Commission.

The church of nearly 2,000 years has raised up two incredible saints who are the co-patrons of the Missions. St. Francis Xavier, S.J. whose heart burned and whose feet took him as far as India and Japan. St. Therese of Lisieux, who although her feet did not carry her too far beyond her convent had a heart that God enflamed, transporting her to the ends of the earth by means of prayer and love.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us! St. Therese, pray for us!

Image of Cross brings clearer focus, understanding of Synod process

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The third phase of the Synod on Synodality began in Rome on Oct. 6 and will be in session for most of this month. In summary, recall that the Catholic Church throughout the world conducted an extensive array of processes beginning in late 2021 that invited the laity, consecrated and ordained to actively participate in the synodal journey of described as one of communion, participation and mission. That was the first phase on the local level of each (Arch)diocese.

During the second stage a committee of delegates in each continental region oversaw the development of the diocesan syntheses into the continental documents of which there are seven. These represent the voices of the faithful from the United States/Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceana. The good fruit of the Holy Spirit from the first two stages in the worldwide undertaking now guides the delegates in Rome as a roadmap for discussion, dialogue and discernment. Drafted from the seven continental syntheses is the working document known as the Instrumentum Laboris. This is replete with the theology of Synodality and the process to be undertaken in stage three for three weeks this month in Rome.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

It is only natural to inquire about the participants in Rome who are devoting three weeks of their lives to the third phase of the Synod process, and who will have an extraordinary voice at this time in church history. In the spirit of transparency, the Vatican on Sept. 21 released the final list of names of those participating in the upcoming Synod assembly, including laypeople who will be full voting delegates at a Catholic Church synod for the first time. The delegates are made up of representatives selected by bishops’ conferences and Eastern Catholic Churches, leaders in the Roman Curia and 120 delegates personally selected by Pope Francis. (See In total, 363 people from around the world will be able to vote in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, according to statistics released by the Holy See Press Office on July 7. Among them, 54 of the voting delegates are women. In addition to the voting members, 75 other participants have been invited to the synod assembly to act as facilitators, experts or spiritual assistants. (Catholic News Service Release)

The Instrumentum Laboris portrays all that the Holy Spirit has accomplished during the first two stages and reads as follows. The first phase enables us to understand the importance of taking the local church as a privileged point of reference, as the theological place where the baptized experience in practical terms “walking together.” First of all, we have experienced the joy expressed in the sincere and respectful encounter between brothers and sisters in the faith: to meet each other is to encounter the Lord who is in our midst. The continental stage has made it possible to identify and share the particular situations experienced by the church in different regions of the world. The daily hardships of poverty, violence, war and climate upheavals came into full view for many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

As noted, the theme or vision for the Synod is “Communion Participation and Mission.” This understanding of the church is interwoven in the direction we have taken in our pastoral reimagining process of the church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. There is no doubt that one has to be patient with a process of listening and discerning within the word-wide church of well over a billion members.

At times there are more questions than answers, but as the Instrumentum Laboris states, a synodal church is open, welcoming and embraces all, and characteristic of a synodal church is the ability to manage tensions without being crushed. At the same time, a synodal church confronts honestly and fearlessly the call to a deeper understanding of the relationship between love and truth according to St. Paul’s invitation. “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Eph 4:15-16) To authentically include everyone, it is necessary to enter into the mystery of Christ allowing oneself to be formed and transformed by the way he lived the relationship between truth and love.
The image of the Cross comes to mind when seeking a clearer focus and a deeper understanding of the Synod process. The vertical beam of the Cross takes us into the vaults of heaven where God has revealed the plan of salvation in the Lord’s death and resurrection and where he transcends the whole of life’s transient nature. This is who we proclaim and teach. The horizontal beam of the Cross represents the daily life of the believer in every age, and the immanence of God in Jesus Christ who is with us until the end of time.

This is the realm of the Holy Spirit who works to bring about the Kingdom of God in the church and in the world. This is the hard work of the Synod which requires patience and trust as we build upon nearly 2,000 years of church history.

Imagen de la Cruz aporta un enfoque más claro y comprensión del proceso del Sínodo

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
La tercera fase del Sínodo sobre la Sinodalidad comenzó en Roma el 6 de octubre y sesionará durante la mayor parte de este mes. En resumen, recordemos que la Iglesia Católica en todo el mundo llevó a cabo una amplia gama de procesos a partir de finales de 2021 que invitaron a los laicos, consagrados y ordenados a participar activamente en el camino sinodal descrito como de comunión, participación y misión. Esa fue la primera fase a nivel local de cada (Arqui)diócesis.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Durante la segunda etapa, un comité de delegados de cada región continental supervisó el desarrollo de las síntesis diocesanas en los documentos continentales, de los cuales hay siete. Estos representan las voces de los fieles de Estados Unidos/Canadá, América Latina, Europa, Medio Oriente, África, Asia y Oceanía. El buen fruto del Espíritu Santo de las dos primeras etapas de la empresa mundial guía ahora a los delegados en Roma como una hoja de ruta para la discusión, el diálogo y el discernimiento. A partir de las siete síntesis continentales se elabora el documento de trabajo conocido como Instrumentum Laboris. Esto está repleto de teología de la sinodalidad y del proceso que se llevará a cabo en la tercera etapa durante tres semanas, en este mes en Roma.

Es natural preguntar acerca de los participantes en Roma que están dedicando tres semanas de sus vidas a la tercera fase del proceso del Sínodo y que tendrán una voz extraordinaria en este momento de la historia de la iglesia. En un espíritu de transparencia, el Vaticano publicó el 21 de septiembre la lista final de nombres de quienes participarán en la próxima asamblea del Sínodo, incluidos los laicos que serán delegados con derecho a voto en un sínodo de la Iglesia Católica por primera vez. Los delegados están compuestos por representantes seleccionados por las conferencias episcopales y las Iglesias católicas orientales, líderes de la Curia Romana y 120 delegados seleccionados personalmente por el Papa Francisco. (Ver En total, 363 personas de todo el mundo podrán votar en la XVI Asamblea General Ordinaria del Sínodo de los Obispos, según las estadísticas publicadas por la Oficina de Prensa de la Santa Sede en julio 7. Entre ellos, 54 de los delegados votantes son mujeres. Además de los miembros votantes, otros 75 participantes han sido invitados a la asamblea sinodal para actuar como facilitadores, expertos o asistentes espirituales. (Comunicado del Servicio Católico de Noticias)

El Instrumentum Laboris describe todo lo que el Espíritu Santo ha logrado durante las dos primeras etapas y dice lo siguiente. La primera fase nos permite comprender la importancia de tomar a la iglesia local como punto de referencia privilegiado, como lugar teológico donde los bautizados experimentan en términos prácticos “caminar juntos”. En primer lugar, hemos experimentado la alegría que se expresa en el encuentro sincero y respetuoso entre hermanos y hermanas en la fe: encontrarse es encontrarse con el Señor que está entre nosotros. El escenario continental ha permitido identificar y compartir las situaciones particulares que vive la iglesia en diferentes regiones del mundo. Las dificultades diarias de la pobreza, la violencia, la guerra y los trastornos climáticos quedaron a la vista de muchos de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en todo el mundo, especialmente en Medio Oriente y África.

Como se señaló, el tema o visión del Sínodo es Participación y Misión en la Comunión. Esta comprensión de la iglesia está entrelazada en la dirección que hemos tomado en nuestro proceso pastoral de reimaginación de la iglesia como Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica. No hay duda de que uno tiene que ser paciente con el proceso de escuchar y discernir dentro de la iglesia mundial de más de mil millones de miembros.

A veces hay más preguntas que respuestas, pero como afirma el Instrumentum Laboris, una iglesia sinodal es abierta, acogedora y abraza a todos, y la característica de una iglesia sinodal es la capacidad de gestionar las tensiones sin ser aplastada. Al mismo tiempo, una iglesia sinodal afronta con honestidad y sin miedo el llamado a una comprensión más profunda de la relación entre amor y verdad, según la invitación de San Pablo. “Más bien, profesando la verdad en el amor, debemos crecer en todo hacia Cristo, que es la cabeza del cuerpo. Y por Cristo el cuerpo entero se ajusta y se liga bien mediante la unión entre sí de todas sus partes; y cuando cada parte funciona bien, todo va creciendo y edificándose en amor.” (Ef 4:15-16) Para incluir auténticamente a todos, es necesario entrar en el misterio de Cristo dejándose formar y transformar por el modo en que vivió la relación entre verdad y amor.

La imagen de la Cruz viene a la mente cuando se busca un enfoque más claro y una comprensión más profunda del proceso del Sínodo. El rayo vertical de la Cruz nos lleva a las bóvedas del cielo donde Dios ha revelado el plan de salvación en la muerte y resurrección del Señor y donde trasciende toda la naturaleza transitoria de la vida. Esto es lo que proclamamos y enseñamos. La viga horizontal de la Cruz representa la vida cotidiana del creyente en cada época, y la inmanencia de Dios en Jesucristo que está con nosotros hasta el fin de los tiempos.

Este es el ámbito del Espíritu Santo que obra para realizar el Reino de Dios en la iglesia y en el mundo. Este es el arduo trabajo del Sínodo que requiere paciencia y confianza a medida que avanzamos sobre casi 2000 años de historia de la iglesia.

World Day for Migrants and Refugees highlights apostolic nature of the church

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Sunday, Sept. 24 marked the 110th commemoration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in our Catholic Church tradition. This commemoration was inaugurated in 1914 by Pope Benedict XV at the peak of immigration from southern and eastern Europe to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Both sets of my grandparents immigrated from Italy and Poland in 1914-1915 seeking a life of dignity, rooted in faith, family and hard work.

This year Pope Francis has chosen the theme, Free to Migrate – Free to Stay. With this designation the Holy Father is only reminding the nations of the world of Articles 13 and 14 from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that state: (13) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own and to return to his country. (14) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

In our time the reality and plight of hundreds of millions of immigrants, migrants and refugees, displaced by natural disasters, war and violence, and unyielding conditions of poverty often strain the spiritual and material resources of many nations. However, there have been admirable responses to the waves of the displaced, for example, with Poland’s welcoming of millions of Ukrainians, Lebanon’s reception of Syrians, and in our own country, the daily processing of 1000s of immigrants, refugees and migrants. All of this is best proclaimed in the spirit of Lady Liberty in New York harbor. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, send these the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp besides the golden door.”

Yet, there are many in every generation of Americans who struggle with the reality of immigration, or who are even hostile toward the waves of migration that have come to our shores and borders. Today, the sheer number of immigrants at our southern border daily strain the resources of the receiving communities and states. The conditions that drive this mass exodus of people from their homelands will not change any time soon and challenge all of us in the United States, especially living on or near the border to respond at the very least, humanely and respectfully.

Recalling St. Paul’s instruction to the Philippians from last Sunday’s second reading, “to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a) the bar is even higher for a more humane and respectful response from those who are the Lord’s disciples.

The Holy Spirit who unveils the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and his Gospel, can illuminate the path to follow the Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus understood the experience of living in the flesh in everything but sin. (Hebrews 4:15-16) He responded to people’s spiritual and bodily needs with compassion and care.

In the light of the 110th anniversary, on behalf of migrants and refugees; soon after his birth Jesus, Joseph and Mary became refugees in Egypt seeking asylum, running for their lives away from King Herod’s raging paranoia.

Many are on the move today for similar threats to their lives. Throughout his life, Jesus Christ the exile in this world from heaven, had no status in the Roman world and so could be and was crucified. But God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) The mystery of God’s plan of salvation reveals that in the resurrection from the dead “you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one, and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us.” (Eph 2:13-14)

Therefore, driven by a love that cannot be walled in, and inspired to a mission that does not let anyone be walled out; the church continues to transcend borders, build bridges and build communities that are a sign of God’s presence among us. Moreover, the conviction of our faith that our citizenship is in heaven can transform our earthly allegiances and guide us from otherness to oneness, and from alienation to communion.

Confessing Jesus as Lord, means that Caesar is not. As Christians follow Jesus as Lord, they challenge the deification of money, the idolatry of the state and the glorification of power. Before God all are one. Here is the bulwark against an ideology of racial superiority, here is the challenge to absolute claims of natural or cultural boundaries, here is the basis for all human dignity, including the dignity of strangers in the land, the right of the migrant to cross borders, whether in fleeing danger or seeking opportunity; the obligation to welcome the stranger and to provide refuge and respect. (The Theology of Migration – Daniel G. Goody) This is the biblical vision which is embraced by the universal declaration of human rights.

In 1914 when Pope Benedict XV inaugurated a World Day for Migrants and Refugees, he understood the apostolic nature of the church; the Body of Christ perpetually in motion, a migrant church, sent into the world on the day of Pentecost with missionary zeal, scattered among the nations by persecutions and martyrdom, perennially and faithfully bearing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ until the Lord comes again. Although we are not of the world because we strive to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, we are in the world and for the world, for the ultimate good of all.

Pope’s travels reach worldly margins

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Pope Francis, furthering the tradition of modern popes, has made pastoral visits around the world. He has gathered millions on the beaches of Brazil and the open fields of the Philippines, and recently, one and a half million pilgrims flocked to Portugal for World Youth Day. But there have been much smaller gatherings that are no less extraordinary. A few years ago, during the pandemic Pope Francis undertook a pastoral visit to the neighboring county of Iraq, the first of its kind, to encourage the suffering church in this war-torn nation, and to pray for peace. In Mosul, formerly occupied by ISIS, the pope proclaimed. “Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.” These words echoed around the world.
As September dawned upon the world the Holy Father went much further east than Iraq, flying 10 hours across Asia, even over Chinese airspace to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia to proclaim the Gospel, to celebrate the Eucharist, and to engage government, civic, ecumenical and inter-faith leaders with words of faith, fraternity and solidarity. Immediately upon landing it was obvious that Pope Francis had gone to his beloved margins of our world and our Catholic faith. There were not hundreds of thousands to welcome his motorcade, rather hundreds, like two hundred. At the closing Mass of this pastoral visit in the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaatar there were an estimated 2,500 hundred in attendance, nearly all of the 1,500 Catholics in Mongolia, along with a 1,000 additional pilgrims from around the world.

However, during this time of Eucharistic renewal, the Pope gave an excellent message regarding all of humanity’s hunger and thirst fulfilled in the Gospel.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

“With the words of the Responsorial Psalm, we prayed: O God, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps 63:2) We are that dry land thirsting for fresh water, water that can slake our deepest thirst. Our hearts long to discover the secret of true joy, a joy that even in the midst of existential aridity, can accompany and sustain us. Deep within us, we have an insatiable thirst for happiness; we seek meaning and direction in our lives, a reason for all that we do each day. More than anything, we thirst for love, for only love can truly satisfy us, bring us fulfilment; only love can make us happy, inspire inner assurance and allow us to savor the beauty of life.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian faith is the answer to this thirst; it takes it seriously, without dismissing it or trying to replace it with tranquilizers or surrogates. For in this thirst lies the great mystery of our humanity: it opens our hearts to the living God, the God of love, who comes to meet us and to make us his children, brothers and sisters to one another.”

The culmination of Pope Francis’ homily was the heart of our way of life as the Lord’s disciples.
“This, dear brothers and sisters, is surely the best way: to embrace the cross of Christ. At the heart of Christianity is an amazing and extraordinary message. If you lose your life, if you make it a generous offering in service, if you risk it by choosing to love, if you make it a free gift for others, then it will return to you in abundance, and you will be overwhelmed by endless joy, peace of heart, and inner strength and support; and we need inner peace.”

In his spontaneous remarks at the end of Mass, the Pope made a sublime association between Eucharistic spirituality and the Mongolian language.

“I was reminded that in the Mongolian language the word for ‘thank you’ comes from the verb ‘to rejoice.’”

Indeed, the Mass is our great prayer of thanksgiving as our spirits rejoice in God our Savior who in Jesus Christ poured out his life for us in an act of eternal love. Pope Francis went on to say that “to celebrate Mass in this land brought to my mind the prayer that the Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offered to God exactly a hundred years ago, in the desert of Ordos, not far from here. What was Father Teilhard de Chardin, SJ doing in Mongolia? He was engaged in geological research.”

The Pope recalled that his Jesuit brother fervently desired to celebrate Holy Mass, but lacked bread and wine. So, he composed his “Mass on the World,” expressing his oblation in these words: “Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host, which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at the dawn of this new day.” This priest, often misunderstood, had intuited that “the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world” and is “the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life.”

For the more than 3 million who are not Catholic in Mongolia and to billions around the world, Francis of Rome wove a marvelous pattern with Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom all things were made, (Colossians 1:16) the Eucharist and the world.

All are welcome

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

“Todos, Todos, Todos” was Pope Francis’ heartfelt declaration during World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal earlier this month. This Spanish mantra states that all are welcome, the baptized especially, to come into the presence of God within the Catholic Church to know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Young and older, from nearly every nation on the planet were on hand to celebrate with the successor of Peter, the Servant of the Servants of our merciful God. What a marvelous manifestation of the church’s identity and mission in Lisbon, encapsulated as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, the focus of our own pastoral reimagining. This universal vision for the church begun on the first Pentecost, actually began to emerge early in the Old Testament. However, it came to fulfillment in the life-giving death and resurrection of the Lord, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the Cross reminds us that this vision of unity among all the nations in the church labors to run its course and requires repentance, conversion and sacrifice to overcome the sin that sows division.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The Canaanite woman of last Sunday’s Gospel is an excellent point of departure to look back into the wellspring of the Old Testament. Her unexpected and anguished plea to Jesus on behalf of her possessed daughter began with the greeting, “Lord, son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus was actually speechless for a moment over this pagan woman’s clear grasp of his identity. Respecting her courage and faith, he reminded her of the Israelite attitude and prejudice toward foreigners that “it is not right to take the food of the household and give it to the dogs.”

“But even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table” was the desperate woman’s retort. The Lord responded in awe over her faith, and in that instant this “unclean woman’s” daughter was healed. This is a fascinating encounter with the Lord that challenges us to go deeper in our knowledge and understanding of God’s will. The Old Testament holds this key.
The Book of Ruth is a parable, a narrative that confronted the harsh policies of the Israelites in the time of Ezra as they returned home from exile. (Ezra 10) Basically, Ezra was directing the Israelites to leave their foreign wives where they found them because they had been unfaithful to the Covenant.
In this mindset God does not want the blood of foreigners polluting the chosen people’s lineage. Really! Enter the Book of Ruth. It is an endearing story of a Moabite women, a pagan, who chose to return to the land of Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth’s words are forever enshrined in our biblical memory. “Wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you live, I shall live. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Wherever you die, I wish to die, and so be buried beside you.” (Ruth 1:16-17) The hand of providence placed Ruth in the direct line of the story of salvation as the great-grandmother of King David from whose lineage came the Messiah, the Son of David. The seeds of universality were already sprouting even before King David sat on the throne of Israel.

There is nothing subtle or hidden about Isaiah’s prophecy in last Sunday’s first reading as he anticipates the Great Commission of the Lord at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. “My house will be a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) All who are righteous are invited to the banquet of God’s love. “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (25:6)

The story of the prophet Jonah is another masterpiece of God’s plan for universal salvation. His preaching prompted the citizens of Nineveh, from the King on down, to sincere repentance. As it turns out, Jonah deeply resented God’ action in granting mercy to the hated Assyrians who had destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. Too bad for Jonah. The prophet’s three days in the belly of the fish prefigured the Lord’s three days in the tomb and his resurrection from the dead, the final step in the plan of universal salvation. The letter to the Ephesians captures the essence of the Lord’s sacrifice.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. And in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (Eph 2:13,16-17)

In our own time, we need to put to death hostility wherever it rears its ugly head and hear the call of the Gospel that rings true in the words of Pope Francis at World Youth Day. Todos, Todos, Todos. This, of course, is the great commission of the Lord “to make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) one person, one family, one community, one nation at a time. With the invitation comes the call to repentance, conversion and change with the same attitude of Peter, the first pope, after Jesus had invited himself into his boat. Peter, overwhelmed by God’s grace with the enormous catch of fish exclaimed, “leave me Lord for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)

Our diocese is blessed with the faithful from many nations, a truly Catholic presence. In light of the above, we can say that a welcoming attitude, faith, prayer, compassion, repentance and conversion are ever-ancient and ever-new components on the journey of salvation. Even though our efforts may seem meager at times, now and then even a scrap that falls from the Master’s table is enough to start the feast.

Pope Francis signals that hundreds of thousands of young people are not loud enough after he asks them to repeat that there is space for everyone in the church. The pope’s remarks came at the World Youth Day welcome ceremony at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)