This weekend we remember and give thanks to God for Blessed Pope John Paul II’s pastoral ¬visit to Los Angeles on September 15–16, 1987.
This 25th anniversary calls us to reflect on what a special privilege it is to receive a visit from the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. We have to ask ourselves: What was the Spirit of God saying to our Church through the Holy Father’s words and pastoral gestures? What challenges and priorities did he identify for our mission? Have we allowed his words to influence our lives and ministries?
Those were the questions I was asking this week as I prayed over Blessed John Paul’s talks and teachings during this visit.
I was struck again by how well he knew the character and history of this great Archdiocese. He talked about our immigrant and missionary heritage; our youthfulness; our beautiful diversity of peoples and languages. He talked about the importance of family life here and our long commitment to Catholic education and ministries of hospitality and charity.
He set his visit in the context of a teaching on the holy name of Jesus. “In a world filled with competing ideologies and so many false and empty promises, the name of Jesus Christ brings salvation and life,” he said.
He reminded us that our Christian identity — and the purpose of our lives — comes from Jesus’ name. “We are called Christians, and therefore the name of Jesus Christ is also our name.”
By our words and actions as Christians, we must tell the people of our times that they can find salvation in Jesus’ name. We must tell them that he alone gives meaning to our lives and brings answers to our doubts, our fears and our sufferings.
Blessed John Paul set his visit in the context of a teaching on the holy name of Jesus: “In a world filled with competing ideologies and so many false and empty promises, the name of Jesus Christ brings salvation and life.”
The evangelization of culture was the real theme of the Pope’s visit.
The Pope challenged us: Is our Christian faith making any difference in our culture? Or is the opposite true — that our Christian faith is being too influenced by our secular culture?
The Holy Father’s questions are provoking and still relevant. We should examine our ministries and our personal witness in light of his questions:
“How is American culture evolving today? Is this evolution being influenced by the Gospel? Does it clearly reflect Christian inspiration? Your music, your poetry and art, your drama, your painting and sculpture, the literature you are producing — are all those things which reflect the soul of a nation being influenced by the spirit of Christ for the perfection of humanity?”
Blessed John Paul pointed out that the Church has a unique duty in this great metropolis that plays such a profound role in driving technology and shaping culture in the world today.
He said we need to encourage artists, entertainers and producers to strive for higher things. To create “works of great beauty, revealing what is noble and uplifting in humanity and promoting what is just and fair and true.”
Blessed John Paul called our Church to a missionary task that I find inspiring and exciting:
“The good news of Jesus must be proclaimed in the language that particular people understand, in artistic symbols that give meaning to their experience, in ways that correspond as far as possible to their own aspirations and needs, their manner of looking at life and the way in which they speak to God. At the same time, there must be no betrayal of the essential truth while the Gospel is being translated and the Church’s teaching is being passed down.”
What a beautiful call to go out and really meet the people of our society today! To find new ways to reach them and new ways to bring them to the encounter with Jesus Christ!
Every Catholic has an “ecclesial mission in the world,” the Pope told us.
Each of us must work to “bring the Gospel’s uplifting and purifying influence to the world of culture, to the whole realm of thought and artistic creativity, to the various professions and places of work, to family life and to society in general.”
So let’s pray for one another this week. And let’s try to reflect more on the message that Blessed John Paul brought to our great Archdiocese 25 years ago.
I have posted a link to the Holy Father’s homilies and talks on my Facebook page. I encourage you to spend some time reading and praying over his words. These words are, in a special way, addressed to each of us — and to our mission as the family of God here in Los Angeles.
Let us also pray that Our Lady of the Angels will strengthen us in truth and love and help us to feel greater responsibility for our mission to bring our world to Jesus Christ.