Our lives are not our own. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since learning that I will be leaving you to become the new coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles.
This is not a future I could have imagined for myself. But then again, I never could have imagined being so blessed as to be your archbishop for these past five years. Our God is a God of surprises, as well as a God of blessings and tender mercies!
And our Christian life is always a pilgrimage in faith. It is the same for a bishop as it is for every baptized believer. Our lives are not our own. We belong now to Jesus. He bought us with the price of his blood, St. Paul said. (1 Cor 6:20) He saved us for a reason — because he has a plan for our lives.
Christ sends each of us out on a mission — to be his witnesses in this world. He calls us to follow him, to live by faith and to tell the world the good news about him.
We all know our ultimate destination, the place that Christ is leading us to — the father’s house, the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. And we know that he doesn’t want us to come alone; he wants us to bring as many others with us as we can.
But we can’t be certain of much more than that. None of us can know where the road of discipleship might lead us. None of us knows what our Lord might ask of us. “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)
This is one of the lessons of this 50-day season of Easter. And it is fitting that I received this news during this holy season.
I love the Gospels of Easter time! I don’t think we can ever meditate on them enough. Every episode starts with the eyes of the disciples being closed. Think about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mary Magdalene in the garden by the tomb. The apostles on the beach by the charcoal fire. St. Thomas.
In every instance, Jesus comes to them but they can’t recognize him. Then, through his word and sacrament, they are enlightened. He calls Mary by name, and by his word she is able to see that he is the one she has been seeking. The disciples at Emmaus come to know him “in the breaking of the bread,” in the Eucharist. “Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (Lk 24:31)
In the light of the resurrection, his disciples learn to walk by faith and not by sight. They can see that Jesus’ love for them is stronger than death. They can see that he will be with them always in his church and sacraments until the end of time. And they can see that nothing is impossible if only they believe in him.
But the Easter stories don’t end with the disciples’s personal encounter with the risen Christ. Every story concludes with the disciples running off in joy to tell others of their encounter.
My brothers and sisters, this is our story too. We have believed the word of those he chose to be his witnesses. We have been blessed because we have not seen and yet we believe. (cf. Jn 20:29) We have been called by name in baptism. We know him in the breaking of the bread and in the sacrament of reconciliation.
And we are not our own. He has given us this gift of new life so that we will share it with others. We are, each one of us, disciples sent forth by Christ from the empty tomb. To testify that our Lord has risen and that he longs to set all people free from the chains of sin and death.
So yes, I am sad to be leaving San Antonio. This has been my home for many years of my adult life. You are my family and I will miss you. And yes, I am a little bit afraid of the road that lies before me. I am going to a city that is vast and that I do not yet know very well. I know, too, that to whom much has been given, much will be required.
But I am also filled with joy. The joy of this beautiful friendship with Jesus. The joy of knowing that I walk with him, and that I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (cf. Phil 4:13)
We are pilgrims, my friends. We are missionaries of the joy of this Easter season. That is what we are here for — no matter where our Lord call us to. Let us pray for each other — that we will always seek to do our Lord’s will joyfully, obediently and in all humility.