My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
This is a special time in our country because we’re all getting ready for Pope Francis to come to the United States in a couple of days. As we know, he’s in Cuba right now and I know that we all are excited about his visit.
I’ll be going to Washington, D.C. this week to concelebrate the Mass of Canonization of Father Junipero Serra with Pope Francis and all the bishops of the United States. It is a special honor for me to be there with my brother bishops for this Mass of Canonization.
I’m sure that you have noticed that we have a new chapel to honor our new saint, Blessed Junipero Serra, soon to be St. Junipero Serra, who is the first Latino saint in the United States. He was one of the founding fathers of California and the United States. And I was thinking the other day that is such a blessing for our Cathedral to have relics — some of the relics — of Father Junipero Serra, and also the relic of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who was the spiritual mother of the evangelization of the New World.
And we know that Blessed Junipero Serra, the first thing that he did when he came to the American Continent was to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to entrust his missionary call to our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
So it is indeed a special time. Let us keep Pope Francis in our prayers today.
It in interesting today that our Gospel also gives us a picture of a pilgrimage. As we heard, Jesus and his disciples were beginning the journey to Galilee.
They are on their journey and they are passing through Galilee, which is Jesus’ home territory — and he doesn’t want anyone to know they are there. Jesus wants to be alone with the disciples because he has something important he wants to teach them.
And I think it is also a good reminder for all of us, my dear brothers and sisters. We have to make time to be alone with Jesus. He really wants to be with us personally, one- on-one, you and Jesus, alone. Maybe we do this just by sitting down and reading a passage of the Gospel, praying and reflecting over Jesus’ words.
It’s a challenge for all of us because we have busy lives. But it is beautiful to see that Jesus really wants to be with the Apostles, one-on-one. And we are also his disciples, so he also wants to be with each one of us, one-on-one.
Maybe just finding some time to stop and think and pray and talk to Jesus.
It is important for us to always keep those lines of communication with Jesus open. Because it is in those quiet moments when Jesus helps us to understand what is it that he needs from us. And it is also the time when he is assuring us that no matter what, he is with us.
In those quiet moments, he tells us the deeper requirements of our faith and the beautiful truth that he is perfect God and perfect man and that we can trust in him.
So that’s what Jesus is doing with the apostles in today’s Gospel.
He’s teaching them about the Cross, about the challenging mystery of his death and the beautiful promise of his resurrection.
But the apostles, as we can see in listening to the passage of the Gospel, they just don’t get it. They cannot understand what he’s telling them, what he is talking to them about.
And they are too scared to ask him any questions. We also have to learn from that. Sometimes we can be afraid to ask Jesus anything. But, my brothers and sisters, we have to ask him for light whenever we feel we are in the dark. We have to have the confidence to ask him for whatever we need. As challenging as it can be or as simple as it can be.
It is also true that sometimes we want to avoid what Jesus is saying to us. Sometimes what Jesus says to us is hard for us to understand and to handle so we don’t find the time to talk to him.
That’s what the apostles also were doing in today’s passage of the Gospel. They do not want to talk about the pain that might come from following Jesus. They want to center also on the glory.
So they start arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest. A total natural, human reaction, twelve men being together and trying to see who is better.
But Jesus doesn’t want the apostles, or any of us, to have any illusions that the Christian life is going to be easy.
As we also heard in the first reading of today’s Mass in the Book of Wisdom, it’s not easy. We are going to follow the way of God, there are going to be people out there who will try to stop us and get in the way, just as there were people who opposed Jesus.
But again my brothers and sisters, no matter what — the challenges that we have in our society, that is moving away from God, the challenges that we have in our lives because we all are weak — we have to follow Jesus.
We do not have to be afraid of suffering or obstacles because Jesus is with us, no matter what.
And we have to make his way — the way of love and service — the way of our lives. Because that is what is going to bring us real peace and happiness.
But that means that we have to strip away all our selfish ambitions and jealousy. And that’s what St. James is talking about in the second reading of today’s Mass. He tells us that we need to struggle everyday against our pride and our weakness. Against our envy and greed. Not only our greed for “things,” but also our greed to be recognized, to be noticed, to be seen as important.
It’s not easy. But it is the way of Jesus Christ. Just think about it — the Son of God, coming to Earth, giving his life on the Cross for each one of us.
So when we watch Jesus closely in the pages of the Gospel we learn the beautiful virtue of humility. And the practice of humility is not only — humility, as St. Teresa of Avila said, is a truth. For humility helps us to understand who we are with our strengths and weaknesses.
So the practice of humility is the only way to really imitate Jesus Christ and to make progress in our spiritual life.
As he said, in today’s passage of the Gospel:
If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all
and the servant of all
So that’s what Jesus is calling us to do today, as his disciples, as the children of God.
So let’s ask for the grace to have that ongoing conversation with Jesus all the time. To be like the apostles, spending time with Jesus, one-on-one. To learn that we are called to happiness — that we can trust in Jesus, but that we need to ask for the grace to humble, truthful, in that way we can really be missionary disciples, the apostles of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
So let’s ask Mary our Blessed Mother for her intercession and especially let us ask her to watch over Pope Francis this coming week and help Pope Francis to open the hearts of all Americans to a new encounter with the love of God and the sanctity of the human person.
1. Readings (Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): Wisd. 2:12, 17-20; Ps. 54:3-8; Jas. 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37.