My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So as we gather today, it is beautiful to reflect on the beginnings of our city. We celebrate the birth of our great city of Los Angeles and give honor to our city’s spiritual and patroness, Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.
And this is a historic year for us. In just a few weeks Pope Francis will come to the United States to canonize Father Junípero Serra — one of the great missionaries who is associated with naming this city and dedicating it to the Queen of Angels.
Father Serra, as we know, was a Franciscan. So he understood the deep devotion that St. Francis of Assisi had to the Queen of the Angels.
This is how this city — our beautiful city — got it’s original name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula (“The Town of Our Lady of the Angelsof Porciuncula”). The city was named for the little chapel where St. Francis first heard the call of Jesus.
Father Serra, as we know, dedicated his whole mission to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In fact, when he first came from Spain to Mexico in December 1749, he walked nearly 300 miles to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to consecrate himself to her.
It’s always interesting to see that in that beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, she appears as the Queen of Heaven and she is carried by an angel.
So in this Mass today we come as Father Serra did, to consecrate ourselves to our Blessed Mother, the Queen of the Angels. And we come to dedicate ourselves to this beautiful mission of sharing the Gospel with the people of our time.
So my brothers and sisters, Church’s mission today is the same mission that Father Serra had. We are here to love God and to serve him through our work. And through our lives, through our witness to our faith in Jesus, we are called to make Los Angeles a real city of the Angels — a place where every heart can know the personal love of God and the sanctity and dignity of the human person who is created in God’s image.
This is what God has wanted for the world — from the beginning of creation. In our second reading today, we heard St. Paul proclaiming:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman …
so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a child … through God.
My dear brothers and sisters, these words give us the whole mystery of salvation. The whole plan of God. We are still living in “the fullness of time,” this time when God’s plan is being fulfilled in Jesus and in the mission of his Church.
God needs us to help him in this mission. He is sending us out, each one of us — to continue the mission of his Son, the mission of his Church.
Just as he called Mary, our Blessed Mother. Just as he called St. Francis. Just as he called Blessed Father Junipero Serra — God is calling each one of us to carry Jesus into the world and to share his love with every single person.
It is indeed a beautiful mission. It was Father Serra’s mission, it is our mission.
In the Gospel today, we hear, once again, the beautiful passage of the Gospel on the drama of the Annunciation. And we heard those tender words from the Angel, “Do not be afraid, Mary.”
As you know, I was ordained a priest just a few months before the election of Pope Saint John Paul II. And I cannot reflect on these beautiful words: Do not be afraid, Mary without thinking of that beautiful message in his first homily as Pope, when he said — Saint John Paul II: “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. … Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.”2
“Do not be afraid!” These are words for us, my dear brothers and sisters. Words for us in our mission as disciples.
God is sending us into this city and this country and we know that our culture is getting more secularized. We know that there is more hostility towards religious values and the teachings of the Church. This is the reality that we live with every day.
But we can’t be angry or afraid of those challenges that we face in our society. Our duty is the beautiful duty of love. To show the love of God in everything we do. And God is with us in our mission! Just as he was with our Blessed Mother and Father Serra. He will never leave us. So we do not have to be afraid.
Do not be afraid!
And also we have a beautiful message of love that everybody out there — our neighbors — they want to hear. A message of mercy and forgiveness, a message of the great dignity of the human person.
So God is sending us out to open the doors of every heart to welcome Jesus Christ. To bring every person to that encounter with Jesus.
So, today as we remember the founding of our city, we must ask for the grace to rededicate ourselves to our mission as disciples.
We have to ask for the grace to be able to commit ourselves again to keep working so that we can make Los Angeles what this city was meant to be — a city of freedom, a city where the love of God can be felt and where every human life is welcomed and cherished.
So we have to keep in our words those beautiful words of the angel: Do not be afraid. And also the beautiful words of Mary our Blessed Mother fulfilling the will of God for her.
We know that Mary is our Queen and our Mother, so let us ask her protection. Let us ask her to watch over our families, our loved ones and our city.
Let us ask her to help us as we seek to continue the mission of Blessed, soon to be St. Junipero Serra and those great missionaries who founded this great city and this country.
And let us pray today in a special way for the visit of Pope Francis to our country, to the United States. May this time be a time of conversion for our city, our country, and every one in the United States.
So let’s ask the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra: So, Blessed Junípero Serra, soon to be St. Junípero — pray for us!
Nuestra Señora de los Angeles — Our Lady Queen of the Angels— pray for us!
1. Readings: Sir. 24:14, 16, 22-24; Gal. 4:1-7; Luke 1:26-33.
2. Homily (Oct. 22, 1978).