Archbishop Gustavo homily from July 1 Cesar Chavez Commemorative Mass

In today’s gospel, Jesus encounters three persons — a father desperate to save the life of his child, an older woman with an incurable disease, and a little girl near death. The gospel shows Jesus’ authority over illness and death as well as the warmth and sensitivity of his humanity.

When Jairus, a synagogue official, pleads with Jesus on behalf of his dying child, Jesus immediately accompanies him to his home. Since the older woman’s illness made her ritually unclean, she does not dare to approach Jesus directly. Because of her great faith, she merely touches the hem of his garment. She is immediately healed! Jesus stops and has a brief but wonderful encounter with the woman who is fearful and trembling. He affectionately calls her “daughter” and affirms her great faith. When word now arrives that the little girl has already died, Jesus goes to see her anyway, telling Jairus “Do not be afraid. Have faith.” Jesus talks to the child gently: “Little girl, arise.” And she rises from death! Jesus, ever sensitive and compassionate, points out that she is hungry!

The Book of Wisdom reminds us that every person without exception is created in the “image of God.” As missionary disciples of the risen Lord, we are to defend and protect, nurture and enhance the lives of everyone we encounter – at every stage of life and in all its circumstances. We are to be sensitive and compassionate like the Good Shepherd. We are to walk in faith, not fear. We are to trust in God’s power to heal, reconcile, make peace – despite the chaos, divisiveness, and bigotry of our society today.

Our late Archbishop Patricio Flores dropped out of school as a boy to be a migrant farmworker. He was well known and beloved for his support for farmworkers and Mexican-American civil rights. As a migrant work also, Cesar Chavez intimately knew the life and struggles of his fellow workers. He courageously dedicated his life to improving their situation, acting out his deep Catholic faith with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, non-violence. He faced many obstacles in his work on behalf of justice but walked always in faith, not fear.

These are very difficult times for farm workers and Latinos, especially those seeking asylum to save their children from violence and threats of death, those who want to give their children a better life, not overwhelmed by poverty and misery. Jesus’ words to all of us in the gospel are very clear. We will all be judged in the end by the extent to which we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. We honor Cesar Chavez best by imitating his commitment and faithful work on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is with us always as she promised. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom, prudence, strength to build up the kingdom of God in our midst. Ven, Holy Spirit, Ven!

Read: July 1, 2018, Homily—Cesar Chavez Commemorative Mass

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