As I come to my final days in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, the reality, if not the enormity of what God has called me to do is just beginning to set in. Driving to San Fernando Cathedral for Mass, I find myself reflecting on what a privilege it has been to call this magnificent, historic place, my “cathedral parish.”
On Good Friday, as I participated in the San Fernando Passion Play, I had the unique perspective of walking in Jesus’ footsteps, and looking into the faces and even the hearts, of the people who lined the streets sharing in this truly unique moment of grace. I saw tears in the eyes of teenagers and their grandparents as together, they allowed the emotion of the moment to penetrate their souls and let their love for Jesus spill into the streets with their tears of thanksgiving. The memory of the humble hearts of the people of this great archdiocese will be the greatest treasure I will carry with me as I head to Los Angeles.
It’s a real temptation to look back at my five years in San Antonio wanting to quantify achievements and measure them with numbers. However, for me the number “one” best defines what God has done through the hands and hearts of you, his people, during this time. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “…so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom 12:5)
I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to share important moments in the life of parishes throughout the archdiocese. I have celebrated the building of new churches and the anniversaries of holy places that are a part of the historic legacy of faith that defines this archdiocese. It is the faith of the people and their willingness to share their many gifts with one another that binds each of these communities together as one.
Each year, as I see men and women coming into full communion with the church I am reminded of how we are all one, in Jesus Christ. On the Easter Vigil, my soul is warmed by the fire that burns in their hearts as they become one in the spirit and one with the church. The Holy Spirit empowers them to walk this journey of faith and brings them to the moment when we proclaim, “All of you are one, in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
When tragedy came into our lives, bearing names like Ike, Katrina and Rita and people were flooded from their homes, your generous hearts fed the hungry, clothed the naked and provided shelter to the homeless. St. Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles, “The community of believers was of one heart.” (Acts 4:32) I experienced that reality as I visited with evacuees, and saw countless numbers of our people giving comfort and peace to those who mourned such great loss.
You helped us to express our long treasured belief that we are “One nation under God” as thousands of you lent the power of your voice to the voiceless, and proclaimed our solidarity with the immigrant. Your voice continues to declare our purpose that we may “...be encouraged in heart and united in love.” (Col 2:2)
When this nation experienced one of the deepest recession in decades, our Hope for the Future campaign had just barely begun to help families who needed assistance to ensure that their children would receive a quality Catholic education. Time and time again, you have shown you believe that we owe it to our children to do all that we can to help them achieve an education that will prepare them to take their proper place in society as inspired leaders in whatever walk of life they may chose.
Through this year’s Archbishop’s Appeal you have truly exemplified its theme, as you reached out as “One Household of Faith.”
In your faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ has brought to life the words of the Second Vatican Council, “witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind.”
I wrote in my recent pastoral letter, You Will Be My Witnesses, “Your first duty remains to heed the commission every one of us receives at the end of every Mass — to go out into the world to love and serve our Lord.”
Our priests, deacons and religious continue to provide us with a practical model of response to Jesus’ call, “Follow Me.” I thank them for never tiring of serving the Lord by serving his children; never giving up hope even when faced with the greatest odds.
As Pope John Paul II once said, “When a person is entirely open to the breath of God’s love, he becomes caught up in a spiritual ‘adventure’ far beyond anything imaginable.”
I pray that you will always be guided by that knowledge as you seek to do God’s will. It is with gratitude and humility I thank you for all you have done as faithful servants in God’s name. Your generous hearts have been and always will remain a source of God’s grace to me.
May Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, grant you peace and joy so that “all may be one.” (Jn 17:21)