My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So let’s keep Pope Francis especially in our prayers today.
So it’s great that we gather, as we do every year, to celebrate the birthday of our great city, the City of the Angels.
As we all know, these day have been days of trial in the Church in our country and different parts of the world. So, I was reflecting on what we listened to in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Many good people are in pain, “walking in darkness,” feeling like they are living in “a land of gloom.”
It is a time of sorrow and penance in the Church. And so in a special way today, we ask our Blessed Mother to help us to bring healing and forgiveness and justice in the Church.
Jesus Christ is the “great light” that scatters every darkness, that shatters the chains that keep us from being the people whom God calls us to be. This is the truth of our faith. And we need that great light of Jesus Christ, now more than ever.
We have many needs in the Church — for reform and renewal, for changing the way we do things, especially for bishops and the clergy.
But, my dear brothers and sisters, the deeper renewal we need is spiritual. The foundation of every reform in the Church is a return to Jesus Christ — his person and mission, his life, death and resurrection for us and for our salvation.
This moment when our faith is tested is a time for us to come back to Jesus, to find him again and make him the center of our lives, to go deeper in our relationship with him.
The founders of this city — the missionary priests and the lay faithful — they came together to build a new world here. In the beginning, as we know, Los Angeles was meant to be a city of God. And one day it truly will be. We know that.
That is our mission — yours and mine. We are the priests and lay faithful of this generation. We continue the mission of the Church and the project of the pioneers who founded this city.
When they named this city for Our Lady, the Queen of the Angeles, L.A.’s founders recognized that every human authority is under God. That Jesus Christ is the one and only King, the true King.
But my brothers and sisters, his Kingdom begins within us. It does not belong to this world. The Kingdom of God begins in your heart and in my heart. And it grows as our love grows.
Just as it did with Mary, our Blessed Mother.
Christ is the great light. He is the child who is born to us, the son who is given to us so that God’s life can be born in each of us. And Christ comes into our lives, just as he came into the life of Mary.
Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
In the Gospel today, we heard the angel speak these words to Mary. But we need to remember that Mary stands for all of us.
When the angel tells her that she has found favor with God, it is obviously a personal message. To her. But also to each one of us. You — each one of us — have found favor with God. You and me, again, every one of us.
Each one of you is unique, we all know that. There is no one who could be like you. Where you come from, your experiences, what you do and how you do it; who you are in your deepest self.
And God is saying to you, once again today: You have found favor with him. For you, Jesus Christ has come into this world. To live and to die and to rise. For you.
And sometimes we just need to stop and think what we are talking about. It’s amazing. The Son of God loves you and me personally. He wants to live with us. He died for us.
So today, we need to open our hearts and minds again to the reality of Jesus. Who he is and what he has done for us. We need to ask new questions to ourselves. We need to look at the life of Christ with new eyes. We need to listen to the Word of God with new ears.
Just imagine Mary our Blessed Mother in the Gospel today. She is the first person in the whole world to hear the holy name of Jesus. The angel tells her:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
So the Gospel promise is that if we believe in his name, he will give us the power to live a new life as children of God.2
This is what it means to be a Christian. A Catholic. We did not create ourselves. God made us. And he made each of us for a reason. Each of you has a mission in the Church, and a divine destiny.
We have found favor with God because believing in Jesus Christ, we can become the person God made us to be. A child of God, one of his sons and daughters.
This is the meaning of our faith. And this is the meaning of the existence of the City of the Angels. And this is the meaning of the world. And that’s what we are celebrating today.
The city of God is meant to be God’s family — brothers and sisters walking in the great light of the Son of God. This is the purpose of Los Angeles, to be a city of saints and a city of angels.
We cannot have, my dear brothers and sisters, a Christian society without Christians. And being a Christian is more than just a habit, something we do.
Christians are sinners who know that by the grace of God we can become saints. We Christians are called to live in the image of Christ, to have the mind of Jesus. To think like him and love like him. To see as he sees and to act as he acts.
So the beautiful truth of our faith is that our God is a God who desires to be born in the world!
And my brothers and sisters, God is asking us today, just as he asked the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be born again. In every one of us in the Church. In our hearts, in our homes, and in our city. He is asking us, as he asked Mary, to use our lives to bring his life into the world.
So let us “yes” to Jesus again, as Mary showed us how to do it.
Let us ask her intercession for our families and our city and for our Church.
Our Lady, Queen of the Angels,
pray for us!
Reina de los Ángeles, ruega por nosotros!
1. Readings: Isa. 9:1-6; Ps. 113:1b-7; Luke 1:26-38.
2. John 1:12; 20:31.