TUCSON, Ariz. – Eucharistic justice calls everyone “to see ourselves and all others in the same light in which the Father sees us,” said Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory in remarks prepared for the Southwest Liturgical Conference study week in Tucson.
Because of a snowstorm, Archbishop Gregory did not make it to Tucson for the Jan. 16-19 gathering but his remarks were delivered by Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.
About 1,200 people from Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma and elsewhere were in attendance. The agenda featured workshops on a variety of topics and the performance of a play titled “The Line in the Sand,” which dramatized the plight of Mexicans seeking a better life in the U.S.
The theme of the 46th annual study week was “Eucharist and Justice: Walking in Charity and Peace.”
In his prepared remarks, Archbishop Gregory repeated the words said at each Mass: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
“That prayer should remind us that we are recipients of the favor of the Lord and none of us approaches the banquet of life based upon our own merits,” he said. “The Eucharist is an invitation to reconsider how the Father’s love has been poured out into all of our lives.”
Archbishop Gregory cited parables and stories that remind the faithful that the “Father’s justice is always commingled with his mercy … so much so that one can never be found without the other.”
“God’s justice defies our categories of justice because it is always tempered with mercy and sees beyond what the human eye beholds in judging our brothers and sisters,” he said.
Eucharistic justice, he said, “is patterned after God’s perfect justice.”
The study week opened with a presentation of Catholic Relief Services’ play “The Line in the Sand,” performed by Father Joe Rodrigues and members of Tucson’s Most Holy Trinity Parish. The play personalized the effects of the immigration issue on a variety of people, based on the results of a study done at the Arizona-Sonora border.
Bishop Kicanas welcomed participants following the play.
“When we use words like alien, fetus, illegal, migrant, criminal … we don’t really get it,” the bishop said. “It’s really Christina, Monica, Victor,” he said, referring to the names of the characters in the play.
Bishop Kicanas stressed the importance of the laity’s role in helping priests and religious battle the world’s “demons,” saying that in the Southwest one of the demons is “the plight of the immigrants,” which involves “women and men with names, with feelings, with fears, with hopes and dreams.”
“Catholics are sent into the world to do what we can to make things right, as God intended,” the bishop added. “Every human being is of infinite value.”
Dominican Sister Sarah Ann Sharkey, a professor of biblical studies at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, spoke of the Eucharist and justice in the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, which she said “offer us a marvelous biblical model to imitate.”
They relate how Jesus himself and in turn the early church struggled to repair broken relationships “and welcome to the table all those who are excluded and marginalized,” she said.
The Southwest Liturgical Conference is made up of 27 dioceses in seven states; the 2008 study week marked the regional conference’s 46th year of ministry.
During the gathering, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., and Dominican Sister Lois Paha, director of the Tucson Diocese’s Office of Formation, received the Faithful Servant awards for outstanding contributions to the work of liturgical renewal in the Southwest region.