(In the final week of the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, Archbishop José H. Gomez was interviewed by Deborah Castellano Lubov for the international Catholic news agency, Zenit. Excerpts from their conversation follow.)
What must the Church convey to young people?
That God is with us all the time and he has a beautiful plan for us. The young people of the United States need to understand that they are the present of the Church, not just the future.
They are absolutely essential to the life of the Church. We want their full participation and contributions.
I would tell them, too, to not be afraid to talk to priests and bishops, as we are totally open to listening to them and want to help.
What advice do you have for young people who want to follow what the Church teaches and calls for, but still find themselves falling short?
It starts with the personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Before that, you are wasting your time and efforts, because you do not know what they are for. Jesus himself gave everything for us, to the point of giving his life in the crucifixion.
We are supposed to be imitating our Lord Jesus Christ. This challenge is for us, too, to sacrifice and give ourselves similarly — to really know Jesus — because that is what our Catholic faith is all about. It is not about the bishops or only fulfilling regulations, it is about Jesus Christ.
What practical recommendations do you have for young people who would like to know Jesus better in their daily lives?
First, prayer: talking to God and listening to God. Sometimes it is difficult for young people to understand that God is present in our lives all the time. But that is the truth! We were created by God, with the generosity and love of our parents. But God is the one who keeps us alive. He knows everything and is interested in us and every aspect of our lives.
Second, read the Gospel. It is important to read the life of Jesus because Christianity is about Jesus Christ. Just like many people are interested in knowing all about celebrities or sports figures, it makes sense to get to know he who matters most: Jesus.
Third, Holy Communion, because in Holy Communion we receive God himself. Young people have an incredible devotion for the Eucharist. I have seen it in Los Angeles, how important it is for them, to have the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It is beautiful to see how young people are attracted to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Prayer, the Gospels, and the Eucharist are essential. Then obviously one must serve people, because it is not just about ourselves, but about making life better for others.
What about young people who feel the Church is prejudiced because women cannot be priests or vote in a synod?
The Church started with two women, the Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth. Women are absolutely essential to the Church. We all participate in the common priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that some are priests and women cannot be priests does not diminish their incredible importance in the Church. The functions of people are not what is essential. Many women and lay people are saints. Our Blessed Mother was not a priest, but she is the mother of Jesus. That is much more important than any priest.
During this synod was the 40th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s election as pope. How can he be a model for the Church today?
Well, he was a model for me. I am celebrating my 40th anniversary of being a priest. I was ordained in August of 1978, and he became pope in October. My whole priesthood was under and with Pope John Paul II.
He was a wonderful example for all of us, for priests, for bishops, for everyone, on how to be faithful to God and to, at the same time, give himself completely to people, until his death. It was beautiful to see that papacy.
To have come from nothing, a country suffering persecution, then become the Holy Father and evangelize all over the world, left such an impact and was so inspirational to me and so many others worldwide.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am very hopeful things will go in the right direction in the future, and it is important that we realize that with the grace of God we can do everything. You think of what Jesus asked the apostles to do: to be united together.
They had differences among them, but they worked together. It is important for all of us to be positive. It is not our Church, but Christ’s Church.