Patrick Walsh

Somewhere, someone is smiling a new smile, or a very old smile. Someone else’s heart has opened up again, and someone’s soul has been a little more unburdened by Christ. Somebody is remembering God, living inside them. Someone is feeling seen.

A new invitation is resounding in the hearts of young and old, the rich and poor, the forgotten, and the loved. It is an invitation that has always been living in the hearts of God’s people. I’ve heard a great teacher say: “God always makes the first move towards us.”

But sometimes it is helpful to be reminded of the power of God and our simple job, to open our hearts, to reach out to God, who is always within and reaching out to us.

It is indeed time! The people of Philadelphia have a great gift in Archbishop Perez. He greets us with a simple invitation to recognize and welcome God into our hearts, to reach out to him and unleash his love in our communities.

Our shepherd’s message during his Mass of installation as archbishop of Philadelphia on Tuesday, Feb. 18 was hope in Christ, who is eager for our welcome. It was a message of hope for a future of renewed communion with God and one another.

Hope calls us to each other, to the oneness God has envisioned from the beginning of time, to the oneness Christ begs for in Gethsemane, “That all may be one as we are one.” When we remember God inside of us, we can hear him, and let ourselves be moved by him.

Tuesday was not a celebration of one man but a welcoming of the Holy Spirit careening through our church. It was a recognition of our littleness in the ocean of God’s love, in the ocean of the stunning diversity of God’s people on display in the cathedral that day.

I don’t think the archbishop’s litany of thank you’s was an administrative “to do,” to get out of the way.  Maybe it was a recognition of turning attention to “the other,” to the Body of Christ that we all inhabit.  It made his ending lesson of “Never underestimate the power of God working in you, through you, and despite you,” stand out.

Our community at Martha’s Choice Marketplace encounters forgotten people all day. It’s taught me just how easy it is to overlook people, and just how damaging to our hearts it is to be invisible, to feel shame for our struggles, to be alone, to feel excluded.

It’s also shown me just how sacred it is to help someone feel seen, remembered and cherished. Every moment we have the opportunity to love, to make someone feel God’s embrace, is a little altar. The archbishop’s words were a reminder to reverence that little altar.

From some perspectives, “inclusion” and “diversity” can seem like buzz words or even disregard for the boundaries of a given group. At the cathedral that day of the installation, it occurred to me that these are not ideas placed on top of church tradition. They express Trinitarian love. They are the reflection of all the different faces of God’s image. They are a reminder of the oneness Christ prays for in the garden.

Our task to include and love our neighbors isn’t a journey we take alone, or even ours to complete. As Archbishop Perez reminds us, it is God completing that work, if we can just be open, and sometimes even when we are closed. God is always ready to transform us.

Watching the moment of consecration at the installation Mass, all I could see in my heart was the image of God blowing open the doors to the basilica and radiating through the congregation and hundreds of concelebrating priests. Come Holy Spirit!

Welcome Archbishop Perez!

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Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at pwalsh@chs-adphila.org. More information about Martha’s Choice, a beneficiary of the Catholic Charities Appeal, can be found at www.marthaschoicemarketplace.com.