Ernesto Cortest, in an interview on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:
DANIEL: Can you put your finger on what it is that draws you in your work to churches?
CORTES: I grew up as a Catholic. For me, it’s just that the tradition and the faith have meaning and significance. The words have always been very powerful. They’ve helped me understand what makes sense to me — the words, the liturgy, the Scripture, the stories, the ideas, the people who are part of it. I’ve had moments of doubt — long moments of doubt. But it’s a combination of Pascal’s wager and the fact that the people who are in [churches] help me understand what I think is important.
DANIEL: How do you see the connection between what happens on Sunday at Mass or a worship service and what happens in our civic culture the rest of the week?
CORTES: Ideally, the Mass or any worship service is a celebration of the work of the people — that’s what the concept of worship is all about. It’s a way of coming together and celebrating our relationship with God, and recognizing that our God is a God of power — and love, which means that presumably there’s some responsibility, some challenge, and vision we take away from it that enables us to go out and do the work of the church, which is not just “church work.” The work of the church is to bring about the vision and values of the kingdom — justice, peace, concern for those who are strangers, those who are vulnerable, and to create the kind of community that enables that to happen. In the Hebrew tradition, it’s the notion of justice at the gates of the city. In Christianity, it’s Matthew 25: “I was a stranger, and you took me in.” That means to make people a living part of the decision-making of the community. How do you do that? How do you create that kind of vibrant understanding of our responsibility to one another and to ourselves? How do we understand that we don’t become human without being connected? That’s the challenge of Sunday morning.