"You witness to our society," Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, said to hundreds of the church's social ministers gathered online for a Feb. 6 virtual Mass as part of the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.
"What you do is essential to the church's mission, to the common good of our society," Archbishop Gomez said in his homily during the Mass, celebrated from Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles. "Catholic social teaching is not an economic or political program, as we know. It reflects the vision that Jesus Christ gave us for the kingdom of God."
"Each of us, in our lives, we have experienced the salvation of Jesus, his healing touch. This is the meaning of our baptism. This is the reason we are gathered here to worship him in this holy Eucharist," Archbishop Gomez said.
"Jesus wants us to continue his message of preaching and healing," he added, "through our words, through our works of love, and through our lives."
Archbishop Gomez said, "That is what makes the Catholic Church unique in our public life. We are not social workers, or activists or lobbyists. We are witnesses. ... We are brothers and sisters, children of our Father in Heaven. We are called to build the kingdom, each in his own way."
He added, "Let's go with Jesus. Let us ask him tonight for the grace and the strength to preach and heal in his name. To do everything for the sake of his Gospel. And let us keep praying for our country. Let us keep do everything we can to help American keep to its sacred promises."
In the sizable, spare sanctuary of the cathedral, only eight people other than Archbishop Gomez inhabited it during the Mass because of coronavirus precautions: Auxiliary Bishop David G. O'Connell of Los Angeles as concelebrant, two altar servers, a cantor, an organist, a lector and a permanent deacon.
There were just eight people in the front pews visible from a camera shot from high inside the cathedral.
Archbishop Gomez's homily was amplified in remarks made by Deacon Rogelio Ramirez after Communion.
"I received a phone call regarding this family who was in Lancaster (California), with no food at the table at all. And there were 35 more families living in this trailer park. When he explained (to) me about his situation, he told me that he was working as this packer of carrots and onions, and he was infected there (with the coronavirus). Many members of his family got infected. It took and more families," Deacon Ramirez said.
"So all of these families in this trailer park were infected without any assistance, and we got food and we were there, and we listened about their needs," he added. "It's sad when they are afraid to say, 'I need help.' It's sad when they don't feel comfortable to do it.
"And we as a church, we as citizens, we have to be sensitive, and we have to be in solidarity and in empathy with them."
This year's virtual gathering of U.S. Catholic social ministry leaders organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development was co-sponsored by 10 USCCB departments and 18 national Catholic organizations.