The following is adapted from the archbishop’s homily at the annual Mass in Recognition of Immigrants July 19 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Each year in this beautiful Mass, we celebrate the immigrant spirit of the people of our country.
This is the story of Los Angeles, the story of the state of California. And it’s the story of America — which is a nation of immigrants, one nation formed out of many nationalities and peoples.
And the immigrant spirit is also the spirit of the universal Catholic Church — which is a pilgrim people, the family of God drawn out of every country, from the ends of the earth.
So it is beautiful to see all of you here today. You are a sign of faith and hope — the faith of the Church, the hope of America.
We gather to pray for all the immigrants and their families: past, present and future. We pray for immigration reform in our country, for our elected officials and for people all over the world, that they open their hearts to the immigrants that come to their countries.
My brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but when I was reflecting on the first reading today, from the prophet Jeremiah, I couldn’t help thinking about the times we are living in.
The prophet’s words are strong: “Woe to the shepherds, says the Lord. …You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
“You have not cared for them.”
My brothers and sisters, I think that sometimes we all feel like the prophet, and would like to say “Woe to these shepherds.”
Because, sadly, it seems that some people in our civil society are acting like some of those shepherds, allowing our immigrant brothers and sisters to suffer under a broken immigration system.
Because they are allowing good people to be scattered, to be deported — millions of them in the last 10 years — mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children. Driven away, sent back to places where they face violence and no future.
But we know this isn’t the whole story. We know that there are many “good shepherds,” many good leaders and good people in our Church and in our society — people who do care. Many who have been courageous and creative in trying to help.
We are grateful for their leadership and their service to the people of our country and the immigrant community and we continue to pray and work for a just, effective and immediate immigration reform.
So we can’t lose hope. God goes with us. God has our back, he is on our side.
The promise we heard from the prophet this morning is true. God himself makes this promise to our families, to everyone who is caught in this terrible system of immigration:
“I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.”
So these are words of comfort, words that are true. We do not need to fear, my brothers and sisters. We do not need to tremble. Every one of us is precious to God. He will not let any of us go missing.
Jesus Christ came to deliver this promise, the promise of God himself. The Lord comes as our shepherd.
In the Gospel today, we hear that: “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd … ”
Jesus’ heart is filled with love, mercy and compassion. And his example must move us to go out of our way to make life better for others. It means reaching out to accompany them in their suffering. It means seeing ourselves in others, seeing our common humanity, our shared dignity.
My brothers and sisters, we are part of a great struggle for human dignity, the great struggle to realize God’s plan for creation, for our world.
We have dignity because we are children of God. Beloved children of God. He says to each one of us, “I know your name. I created you out of love. To be my son, to be my daughter. This is your dignity. This is your destiny.”
This is what we are working for — a world where every life is valued, where every life has meaning and dignity.
As you know, Pope Francis was in Latin America last week — a beautiful homecoming for the pope. And in his final Mass in Paraguay, the pope gave us this beautiful vision of the Church. He said:
“The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality ... welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed.”
My brothers and sisters, every one of us in the Church is called to this mission of hospitality and welcoming. We are called to open the doors of our hearts. To love with the heart of Jesus.
So let’s keep praying and working for immigration reform, for dignity. Let us continue to make Los Angeles and America a home of hospitality and welcoming!
In this holy Eucharist, let us remember the names of those who cannot be with us because of our broken immigration system. Let us hold them in our hearts and place their names upon this altar.
I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Mother, to watch over you and your families and to give you courage and strength in everything you do.