(On April 28, Archbishop Gomez celebrated the closing Mass of the Region XI Encuentro in Visalia, California, with more than 1,000 lay leaders and 20 bishops from 15 dioceses in California, Nevada and Hawaii. The following is adapted from his homily, which was delivered in Spanish.)
We conclude this encounter with these powerful words from the risen Jesus that we have just heard in our Gospel reading.
Jesus is saying to each one of us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
This is who we are. We are the branches joined to the Vine. Our lives are now a part of Jesus’ own life. And we are joined to Jesus’ life for a reason — to bear fruit for his kingdom.
This is the meaning of our Christian lives and this is the meaning of this Encuentro experience.
We are living in providential times! In this moment, for the first time, we have a pope from the New World, from Latin America, a pope who speaks in the native tongue of Spanish.
Pope Francis is the pope for the whole Church, for all peoples. But it is providential that he comes from Latin America. This is a sign for us that this is the Latino moment and we are called to serve — to share in the mission of Jesus, the great mission of proclaiming his salvation for the life of the world.
It is beautiful that we are celebrating this regional Encuentro during the Easter season, because Easter is the moment of “encuentro.”
In the liturgy during this Easter season, we relive the encounter of the first disciples with the risen Jesus. When we renew our baptismal promises in this Easter season, we are remembering our own encounter with Jesus.
Baptism joins us to the true Vine, to Jesus Christ. And now his divine life is flowing in us, like the blood that flows in our veins.
We need to live from Jesus — just as a plant lives and grows from deep roots. And we need to realize that we are never alone.
The Church is like a beautiful tree that is growing all around the world, rooted always in the true Vine. Each member of the Church, each one of us, is a small branch connected to the trunk of this beautiful tree.
Jesus tells us today, “Whoever remains in me … will bear much fruit.”
This is the message of Encuentro. Jesus is calling you to bear fruit with your lives, wherever he has “planted” you — in your ministries, in your families, in your neighborhoods, in your work or school. Wherever you find yourself in life, Jesus is calling you to make your life fruitful, to grow his kingdom of love.
As we know, this year we will celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the great priest and bishop from San Salvador. He was a simple man of God who gave his life for his people.
And I like to reflect on his words: “Let each one of you, in your own vocation — nun, married person, bishop, priest, high-school or university student, workman, laborer, market woman — each one in your own place live the faith intensely and feel that in your surroundings you are a true microphone of God.”
We need to be “microphones” of God! We speak to others about God! We need to proclaim him, not only by what we say, but by how we live and how we act. Just like Archbishop Romero did.
We need to live our lives, as St. Paul and the first disciples lived. We need to live and walk with Jesus and we need to love others. Then we will truly be missionary disciples, and our whole life will be full of joy and happiness as we are sharing the beauty of God’s love for everyone. In this way, we will truly be the “microphones of God” in our time.
Pope Francis gives us the example of talking about the “joy of the Gospel.”
Our world needs a new evangelization. The first evangelists to this country were Hispanics, missionaries from Spain and Mexico. We are called to continue their work, to walk with Jesus and continue his mission.
Let us boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as a new way of living — a new way that breaks down walls and builds new ties of solidarity and communion with other people.
And we need to remember that our mission begins with serving the poor and those most in need. Right now, we have a special calling to work for immigration reform and find a just solution for the young Dreamers!
Let us invoke our Blessed Mother, Mary of Guadalupe, Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace. May she accompany us in this providential moment, and give us confidence to walk with her Son, Jesus, and inspire us to want to be his missionary disciples.
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