In Mass with mudslide victims, Archbishop Gomez pledges God’s love and consolation
Angelus Staff Jan. 15, 2018
Archbishop José H. Gomez traveled by helicopter to Santa Barbara Mission Sunday to celebrate Mass and bring consolation to hundreds of faithful, following a week of mudslides that devastated the region, leaving roads washed out and an estimated 20 people dead, 40 more still missing and hundreds of homes destroyed or badly damaged.
“One of the hardest things in the world is to keep believing in God’s love when we see tragedy,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“We want to know why. Why does God allow mudslides and fires and earthquakes and hurricanes and wars and famines? I do not know. Nobody knows! But we all know one thing: God did not make us to see us get hurt. He made us out of love. We are his sons and daughters and he wants only the best for every one of his children. Every person! No exceptions!”
Among those attending the Mass were members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Montecito, which was hardest hit by the mudslides.
Archbishop Gomez pointed to stories of faith and courage in the midst of the tragedies and called the faithful to reach out to those who are suffering and mourning.
“There are homes and there are lives that need to be rebuilt. There are people who need to be hugged, people who need to be consoled. To be told that things are going to be alright! And they will be! Because God is with us!” the Archbishop said.
His full homily is below.
Homily — 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)[i]
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Santa Barbara Mission
January 14, 2018
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is a special blessing for me to be here.
I am grateful for this chance to be close to you and hopefully, to bring you the consolation of God’s love and his tenderness — in this time when so many of our brothers and sisters are in pain.
I especially want to recognize those of you who are joining us from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montecito.
To all of you: I bring the love of God and the prayers and support of the whole family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
This morning, we are especially praying for the ones who died this past week and for all the victims and their families.
We gather this morning in this Eucharist to worship God and to talk to him, to pray and to tell him our frustrations, our sorrows. We come especially today — to look for answers to our questions.
In the Gospel that we just heard, Jesus asks the two disciples of St. John the Baptist: “What are you looking for?”
It is a good question for us this morning. I think we are all looking for the same thing. I think we all want to know — why are these things happening.
There is a story in the Angelus this week, our weekly magazine, and it is about a couple in their 70s. They were evacuated during the Thomas Fire and it was only days later that they were able to return. And the place where their house was — there is nothing left. Just ashes and dirt.
These are good Catholic people, good neighbors. You know these stories. There are hundreds more like them. You are living these stories.
And you know these stories tell us that life is precious, but it is also uncertain and fragile. These stories tell us that we should live for God every day and cherish our time — and we should not anything in our lives for granted.
So, we come to Jesus today and we are looking for answers. But our Lord today, he does not give us the answers. He tells us instead — that he is the answer.
In the Gospel we heard, he tells those disciples, “Come and see!” What he means is: “Follow me and you will find the answers — and everything you are looking for.”
And my brothers and sisters, the truth is this — in good times and in hard times — Jesus is always calling us to follow him. Always calling us to come and see.
In that first reading, Samuel learns to say to the Lord: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
We need to make this the basic attitude of our lives. We need to be talking to the Lord all the time, asking him: What do you want me to know? I am listening. What are you saying, what are you telling me — in the people you send my way? In the things that are happening in my life?
Those words we heard in our psalm today, we need to make those words a prayer that we are saying all the time: “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”
That means — even when we are suffering, even when times are hard. We need to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” We need to say: “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”
It is not easy. One of the hardest things in the world is to keep believing in God’s love when we see tragedy. We want to know why. Why does God allow mudslides and fires and earthquakes and hurricanes and wars and famines?
I do not know. Nobody knows! But we all know one thing: God did not make us to see us get hurt. He made us out of love. We are his sons and daughters and he wants only the best for every one of his children. Every person! No exceptions!
The only thing for certain in our lives is that God loves us. And how do we know that? One word: Jesus.
God loves us so much that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die for us. For you and for me.
This is the whole foundation of our Christian faith. Jesus Christ suffered and he died — and he was innocent, he did not deserve any of it. He died so that we could live. What is lost in Jesus, what dies in Jesus — rises in Jesus!
St. Paul today, in the second reading we heard, he says: God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.
My brothers and sisters — we can count on this. We can build our lives on this foundation.
So, where does that leave us right now? Where does that leave us when we see our neighbors, when we see our friends and our loved ones suffering?
We need to ask the Lord what he is saying to us in these tragedies. But we also need to open our hearts to what is calling us to do.
St. Mother Teresa — she lived in the midst of the most extreme poverty in India, she saw so much suffering every day. And you know, people would ask her: Why does God let these things happen?
And she would say, “I do not know why. I only know what God is calling me to do in this moment. And I know that in this moment God wants me to reach out to those who are suffering, and to those who are in mourning.”
God is saying exactly the same thing to us this morning.
There are homes and there are lives that need to be rebuilt. There are people who need to be hugged, people who need to be consoled. To be told that things are going to be alright! And they will be! Because God is with us!
I was telling you the story about that elderly couple who lost their home in the Thomas Fire.
The woman said she went to bed that night during the fire and she was praying her rosary. She was talking to God from her heart and she said, “Dear Lord, if it is your will, we will be ok.”
This is powerful! This is true faith, the kind of faith that will make our lives and our families and our communities be stronger!
So, let us thank God today in this holy Mass. And let us say to him, with confidence and with love: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”
I pray that our Blessed Mother Mary will intercede for you and watch over your families in her tender mercy. And may she help us to always come and see Jesus and to follow him in love.
[i] Readings: 1 Sam. 3:3b–10, 19; Ps. 40:2, 4, 7–10; 1 Cor. 6:13c–15a, 17–20; John 1:35-42.
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