As I wrote to you last week, this was my first journey to the land of the Bible, this place where God first promised us his love and salvation. And I think it’s going to take me a while to sort out my many impressions and feelings from this journey. It was a time of special grace to be in this place where God once walked. I found myself reflecting a lot on the figures of the Bible and thinking about the radical beauty of what God calls us to in our Christian life. We all live by the promises of God. In the Holy Land this becomes clear. That’s the way it is with God. It always has been and always will be. We see the example from the beginning of the Bible to the end. At the beginning of salvation history, God finds Abraham and calls him to pick up and leave everything behind. Family. Lifelong friends. All his familiar places and routines. God calls him to leave the place that holds his memories and dreams and to go out “to a land that I will show you.” Again and again in the Gospels, we hear Jesus make the same demand: “Follow me.” And again and again we hear of men and women leaving everything and following him. He is to be our path, the way for our life. In little ways and big ways, God asks the same of each of us. Some he calls to distant places far away. I’ve always been moved by the stories of the missionary saints —who set out to follow Jesus, knowing they would never see their families again. But for all of us, faith is a relationship, a journey and a mission. Following Christ means going where he wants us to go, not where we might want to go. “What concern is it of yours?” he tells St. Peter at the end of the Gospels. “You follow me.” Jesus’ Word is always a commission and a promise. We don’t know where he will bring us, but we know that he has something he wants us to do. No matter who we are, no matter where we find ourselves, Jesus wants us to be seekers after his Kingdom — the promised land that he wants to lead us to. Following him means sharing his promises with those we meet along the way. It means inviting others to join us on this journey of faith. To walk with us as brothers and sisters in the beautiful family of God that is the Church. In the holy sites where he once walked, we can feel his presence more deeply. We can sense the reality of his promises. The Holy Land is the Promised Land, the land that God promised to show Abraham. And the Holy Land is a sign of the heavenly Kingdom that Jesus promises to each of us. We are entering the final weeks of the Church’s year. Next week we will celebrate All Souls and All Saints, those great feasts when the Church reminds us of our heavenly home — the promised land that God calls us to. The destination that Jesus is leading us to. Just as he once did in the roads and villages of the Holy Land, Jesus is still passing by on the pathways of our lives. He is still at work. Speaking to us. Calling us to follow and share in his mission. Promising that he will go with us. Our hope for heaven comes in knowing Jesus better and better every day. And to know him, we have to listen to his Word to us and respond from the depths of our heart. We have to “come and see” where Jesus lives, just as his first disciples did. So let’s make that our prayer this week. To walk with Jesus more closely on the path that leads to his promise. Let’s pray for the grace to keep following the path that he sets out before us in our daily lives. Going wherever we are called. Trusting that what comes to us comes from God. Knowing that he goes with us and will never leave us. We need to pray for a deeper spirit of trust and detachment. Let’s look into our hearts and find those things that hold us back from taking on the mission he gives us. Even when we think we’ve given everything, God will show us that we can give a little more. And may our Blessed Mother, Mary of Nazareth, show us the way. Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral letter, “Witness to Faith,” is available at http://archla.org/witness. Follow the Archbishop at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez
Most Reverend José H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Catholic community. He also serves as Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.