By Bishop Alberto Rojas
Dear friends, peace and wellbeing to all of you and your families. As you know, from the moment of our baptism, we became children of God, and since then, as Catholic Christians, we are all on a mission from God. Rooted in our faith, strengthened by our hope and guided and nourished in our charity by the Eucharist, we are called to remain in Christ’s love, united in our diversity as One Church. In our Creed we profess that we believe the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Indeed, we are one Church extended throughout the world in thousands of dioceses and parish communities, institutions and religious congregations, speaking many languages and expressing ourselves through many cultures, all forming one Church, believing in one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.
During this time of the pandemic our coming together has been challenged and many of us did not see our family members and friends for fear of getting infected or infecting others. Many people suffered with depression and isolation, always hoping for the best and waiting for the time when they could meet in person again. Based on the due respect to other people’s lives, we had to sacrifice the celebration of Mass and other Sacraments for a time.
But as people created in the image and likeness of God, our God who is community in the Trinity in a perfect and loving relationship, we are reminded that we were meant to live our lives in a loving relationship with others. Many people think of a building when they hear the word “church.” However, all the baptized are the people of God who form the Church, and who are called to live in harmony, loving and respecting each other, forgiving each other, and fulfilling the mission we received from God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus came to the world in human form, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that we may be able to be closer to God, and be able to grasp a bit of the mystery of his saving mission. He made us part of that same purpose, that we might understand how much God loves us. He did everything possible to help us reconnect with God the Father and with one another, demonstrating his love for us not only by teaching us, but also by doing great miraculous deeds, showing us forgiveness and compassion even to the point of sacrificing his own life on the Cross.
And this is the mission we are called to continue, bringing people together in the spirit of Christian love, compassion, acceptance, respect and support of one another. Our baptism is a sacrament of belonging and forming community; through it we became part of the Body of Christ, the Church.
When two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, He promised us to be present right there with us and we believe this! Much of the suffering in the world is created by divisions because of our sinfulness. The devil loves division, but God who is all powerful and stronger, loves unity.
In early 2020 as I joined bishops Barnes and Del Riego on a trip to Rome for the Ad Limina Visit, we were fortunate to have a meeting with Pope Francis. As we were talking to the Pope, I asked him one question: Pope Francis, what is your greatest fear? And without any hesitation he said, “division.”
Pope Francis then went along explaining how damaging division has been among parents who divorce, division in the families, divisions in the Church among bishops, among priests and religious groups, among ethnic and cultural groups, among society because of terrible ideologies and so on; all these things degrading for us as human beings. He said, “because division comes from the devil, but unity comes from God.” Jesus’ mission is to bring us together as one to remain in God’s love. When Jesus taught us the Our Father he didn’t say “My Father who are in Heaven.” No! He said, “Our Father” — together and united in our diversity.
Technology has been an amazing creation of the human mind to help us connect with anyone anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, and we are grateful for this. However, as our distances have diminished, our human weaknesses such as hatred and racism have increased and divided us even more. Even within our own families, our cellphones have helped us to connect with people far away from us, but they have also disconnected us from those around us.
There is international exchange when it comes to economy, sports and entertainment and so on: it seems like we are bound together, but do we really love each other? Many people around the world live in fear and without hope because they relate to each other for selfish interests and purposes rather than trust, mutual help and faith in God. In these cases, many times there is no trust nor mutual help from the heart because God is not invited.
Millions of people are starving for God and they don’t even know it; they haven’t realized the purpose of their existence! The hope is that someday they will awaken to the presence of God’s love, and that is where our mission takes place; if we will, we can make it happen.
We, baptized people of faith, are on a mission from God, and we want to look into the eyes of one another to express compassion without judgement and condemnation, to respect everybody as human beings created in the image and likeness of God. We are called to share the love and light of Christ that we all hold in our hearts, and that’s a big mission, that is our mission with God’s help. There is no need to continue living in darkness because Jesus is already present within us and with us in this world.
Let us not forget that we were created to share God’s loving energy with everyone around us. The world needs us now more than ever, especially you young people who are “the now of God.” We need you, stay with us. Please, let us allow Jesus to use our hearts and minds to bless and love everybody, to forgive and accept each other in our rich diversity, remaining united in the peace and joy of God’s love. This is very possible if we all really will it. In Christ’s love, peace and blessings to you all.