When the Mass’s celebrant, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, preaches on the significance of what the Church is celebrating today, the message of his homily is the same as the one he gave at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at Midnight Mass just a few hours earlier.
“It’s not that God wants to be with us in some extraordinary way,” the archbishop tells the inmates. “God becomes a little child in a manger, small and defenseless.”
It’s a message that seems to have the full attention of today’s congregation.
“God wants to be with us, with you and with me, independently of the situations in our life. He loves us no matter what. If we’ve done things wrong in our life, he loves us even more.”
To make his point, the archbishop could have used examples of some of the crimes many of these men are accused of: robbery, kidnapping, domestic violence.
Instead, he reminds them that “God loves you whether you’re a Lakers or a Clippers fan,” or whether they support Chivas or América [two of Mexico’s major soccer teams].
Although, if you like América, “there might be something wrong,” cracks the Mexican-born archbishop, himself an avid supporter of the Rayados of his hometown of Monterrey (who were playing América the next day).
Here the crowd of jumpsuits breaks into laughter, forcing the archbishop to pause….
After the Mass, Archbishop Gomez made the rounds through the restrictive housing unit, where the jail’s most dangerous, high-risk inmates are kept in single cells.
As he stopped at each cell to greet the inmates and give them this year’s Christmas gift (a copy of the book Tattoos on the Heart by local priest Father Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries), some stretched out their hands for a blessing, others showed him what they were reading. One even flashed a gang sign to say thanks. Others just wanted to make the most of their few seconds with the archbishop.
“Can you pray for me, sir?” asked one inmate through the green bars.
Blessing the young man, Archbishop Gomez prayed for peace in his life and for his family….
Read the entire Dec. 27 story from Angelus News.