Cardinal Roger Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles
To Delegates of the
Democratic National Convention
Sunday, August 13, 2000
1 Kings 19:4-8
Once again, I extend to all of you, delegates to the Democratic National
Convention, my sincere welcome. It is the Church’s special prayer that during
these days of important deliberations for the good of our country God will be
ever present in your hearts to guide you for what is truly in the best interests
of all our people.
I am particularly pleased that so many of you chose to come this morning to
be nourished by God’s Word and Sacrament as you prepare for your Convention.
That is surely a hopeful sign for our country. In an era when polling techniques
and focus groups sometimes seem to have replaced enduring principles and values
to guide us, it is heartening that you are here to listen to God’s Word and to
allow God’s plan for the human family to impact your views and decisions.
Today's Scripture readings recall two central dimensions of our faith: First,
they remind us of the centrality of the Eucharist as a primary source of our
spiritual nourishment. The meal that we share at the Eucharistic table provides
the food for the journey—borrowing an image from today's passage from the First
Book of Kings.
Second, the reading from Ephesians reminds us that, as Christians, our
discipleship must be guided by the virtues of compassion and forgiveness. In
doing so, we imitate Jesus Christ whose life embodied a genuine compassion for
the poor and most vulnerable members of society. Likewise, his ministry extended
God's forgiveness and mercy to sinners and to those ostracized from the
The image of bread is one used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New
Testament. It is used figuratively as a symbol of our need for spiritual
nourishment—a need that is most completely satisfied through a genuine and
faithful relationship with God.
But the Scriptures also use the image of bread in very literal terms. Our Old
Testament Scripture recalls how God nourished Elijah with special food that was
sent to him by an angel, thus sustaining him for a journey of some forty days
and nights. Our Gospel speaks to us so powerfully as Jesus declares: "I am the
living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live
forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
Jesus knows well that each of us needs both spiritual and physical food for our
life journeys, and offers both to us most generously.
The Eucharist that we celebrate this morning calls us to establish a deeper
relationship with God and with our neighbor. Love of God and love of neighbor
are inseparable, as we know as disciples of the Lord. We demonstrate our love
for God by how we interact with our neighbor. Throughout the Catholic social
tradition, this is measured by how we treat "the least among us"; how human life
is protected and human dignity is affirmed; and how the common good is promoted
and human rights are preserved.
It is the Prophets down through the ages who constantly remind us that the
quality of justice in society—and the measure of our fidelity to the convenant
relationship with God—are measured by the how the poor, the widow, the orphan,
and the alien are treated. In our own day and time, the test is no different.
Today, the poor, single mothers, children, and immigrants remain the most
vulnerable populations even in an economy that has shown great vitality and has
rewarded so many in our society. The lives of children are threatened both in
the womb and in our neighborhoods.
The widening gap in our economy was emphasized last year by a local study
released by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles that documented the reality
that someone who works full-time, all year round, at minimum wage still lives
below the poverty line. It also has provided momentum for a campaign by
organized labor, religious groups, and community organizations to obtain a new
amnesty for immigrant workers.
As we seek God’s nourishment in this morning’s Mass, we are called to be in
the forefront of those who stand on the side of all who may be threatened in our
communities. Let me give you just three examples of such threats that we
Human life remains threatened in our country most clearly because of
legalized abortion, but also by the continued use of capital punishment, and
the movement to allow physician assisted suicide. As we are nourished by
God’s Word, we find there that innate dignity of each human life and person,
and are nourished through the Eucharist to guard and protect all human life.
Human dignity remains threatened by the growing gaps in wealth and
income and by the scarcity of affordable housing, healthcare, childcare, and
a quality education. Again, we are nourished by God’s Word and Sacrament to
step forward boldly and with courage to make certain that all Americans
share in the incredible prosperity with which God has blessed our nation.
Human rights are jeopardized when immigrant workers are exploited,
when the minimum wage cannot support a family in dignity, and when
discrimination and racism are still evident in the workplace and in our
neighborhoods. And again, God’s Word and Sacrament nourish and sustain us in
our unrelenting efforts to respect all people’s God-given rights, and to
correct and reverse attitudes and feelings that diminish all of us.
As you leave our special Mass this morning, you will receive copies of a
statement entitled Faithful Citizenship issued by the United States
Catholic Conference. Every national election year, the Catholic Bishops issue
such a statement with a three-fold purpose:
- To outline the basic principles of Catholic social teaching;
- To apply those principles to the pressing social policy issues of our day;
- To encourage Catholics to fully engage in the civic life of their
Those of you gathered here this morning represent leadership from across the
United States. And with leadership comes responsibility. The challenges that
stand before us are many: to protect the lives of all God's children and to
promote the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, whether they be the
unborn, the powerless, and the voiceless; to preserve the dignity of the poor
and the least among us; to strengthen families, to nurture our children, and to
reinvigorate a deeper sense of promoting the common good, rather than an
exaggerated sense of individualism.
This Eucharist that we share this morning not only sustains us spiritually.
It can also guide us practically if our hearts are open and if we are willing to
be people of compassion, forgiveness and mercy. In the end, God will not rely on
polling data to judge our fidelity to the Gospels. God will not convene focus
groups to determine our moral integrity or our ethical fitness. Instead, we will
face a self-examination that is both simple and stark: Whatever we did for the
least of those among us, we did for God.
May God bless each and every one of you during these important days of your
national Convention, and may God’s Word and Sacrament expand your vision and
sustain you as you journey forward as His faithful disciples!