Pilgrims hold up images of Our Lady of Guadalupe during an annual pilgrimage in her honor (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)
The journey of life is difficult at this time for Hispanics in the United States. Many have friends and family members who are without papers; many are without papers themselves; children in school are being bullied; and young immigrants who signed up for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are anxious that they might lose their opportunity to work and their protection from deportation; racism has raised its ugly head in many communities; and so many of our neighborhoods and homes are plagued with violence. Many who have jobs often find themselves having to work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet.
To all of you this day I remind you that OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE COMES TO MEET YOU TO LEAD YOU TO JESUS. She says to each of you what she said to St. Juan Diego: "Do not be disturbed in your heart; do not be afraid. Am I not with you, I who am your mother?" We need to hear these words of comfort and strength when there is so much hostility in the public conversation about immigration and immigrants.
I wish to say loudly and clearly to all of you that as your bishop I am with you. You are the Church. I will walk with you no matter how hard it gets. Please God, things will go better than our worst fears about what might happen. Regardless, the Church is with you. I am here to accompany you.
I also wish to announce to our immigrants, to our refugees, to our migrants, from wherever you come, that we will do everything we can to help you through our Catholic Charities and the community organizations of which we are a part. As Catholics we embrace our American traditions of welcome, of unity in diversity, and our care for all.
I also wish to say to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to our Jewish elder brothers and sisters, and to all our inter-faith friends that the hate which destroys the unity and solidarity of the human family cannot be tolerated in any way. The way of God is the way of love.
As you know so many of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East have been slaughtered by ISIS or lost their homes in war torn areas and have suffered as refugees from their ancient lands. I ask you to join with our Holy Father Pope Francis, in doing whatever you can in any way to support the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Christian and Muslim refugees at this time, and to bring calm to their homelands.
The causes of war and cruelty cannot be ignored. The injustices that give rise to radical evils must be alleviated. The forces of evil must be stopped. Ultimately, evil will only be overcome by good, by the hard work of good people working together to bring about peace. And there will be no peace if there is no justice which respects the dignity and worth of every human being. As long as the gods of money and power and unrestrained impulses found in the idols of greed and corruption rule on the face of the earth there will be no lasting peace. Sad to say, an even greater threat to peace that looms over our heads would be the unrestrained advance in nuclear weapons which could destroy all creation.
I sincerely believe that unless God is accepted as sovereign Lord over the earth and over our lives, communities will continue to deteriorate, the earth will be devastated, and family coherence will be diminished. Your devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe keeps us close to her as our Mother. She leads us to Christ Who is the all just One; the all merciful One; the Hope for the world when all seems hopeless.
The world does not need any more walls. It needs bridges of compassion and mutual understanding. Yes, proper respect for borders or boundaries, but not barriers of hostility and division. Let there be peace at our borders.
The world cannot continue to endure more violence. It needs restraint, words of peace and perseverance in the hard efforts to create the just structures that are the foundation for peace. In our community the answer to gang violence is good education and decent jobs.
The world must not tolerate racism. It needs to honor the diversity of God's human family by building a unity which embraces and respects all races on the face of the earth. Unity in diversity!
Today we venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe who comes to meet us as our mother. Nuestra Señora will show us the way to peace and goodness and justice. Mary is the mother of all peoples. She will give us the courage not to be afraid. She will lead us to Jesus, the Lord of peace and justice.
Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe! Viva Cristo Rey! Stephen E. Blaire is bishop of Stockton, California.