My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Yesterday’s fire was heartbreaking. Let’s thank God that nobody got hurt. And as I was saying before, I thank God this morning for this opportunity to pray with you and to mourn with you.
The Lord is all mercy and love and tenderness toward us, and we know that he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, that he will turn our mourning into joy. We know this. We believe in his promises.
But right now, in this moment, we are sad for what we have lost.
In this long season of sickness and death since the coming of the coronavirus, this is one more trial, one more test. And we ask the Lord to grant us comfort and consolation. We ask him to strengthen and increase our faith.2
As Father Joe was saying, this destruction comes as we are getting ready to celebrate the 250th anniversary of this great mission. But my brothers and sisters, this fire changes nothing. Mission San Gabriel will always be the spiritual heart of the Church in Los Angeles, the place from which the Gospel still goes forth.
Mission San Gabriel and you all trace your roots all the way back to the beginnings of the Christian faith in California, before the founding of the United States. In fact, as you probably know, you are one of the few Catholic communities in this continent that claims to be founded by a saint.
Last night I was praying to the founder of San Gabriel Mission, St. Junípero Serra, and I was reflecting on his words and witness. As you also probably know, he knew sufferings every day in his service to the Gospel.
The first mission he founded, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, was burned to the ground in 1775, and a good friend of his and fellow missionary was killed there. Fr. Luis.
And I thought, when I was reflecting on all this, what would St. Junípero tell us this morning? And I remembered this beautiful prayer that he prayed to God. He said: “Let us bear every hardship for the love of You and the salvation of souls. In our trials, may we know that we are loved as Your own children.”3
So my brothers and sisters, let’s make this our prayer this morning, knowing that we are little children — God’s children.
And that’s exactly what St. Paul tells us this morning in the second reading of today’s Mass, he gives us a beautiful testimony:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
This is our hope, my dear brothers and sisters. God made us for glory — not for pain, not for sorrow! St. Paul reminds us that Jesus comes to liberate us from the “slavery to corruption.” He comes so that we can share in the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”
This is our destiny. We are children of God and God will never abandon any of his children. Our hope is never in vain because our hope is always in the Lord.
And the prophet Isaiah tells us today, in the first reading:
Thus says the Lord, my word … goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
God’s Word was made flesh and Jesus Christ is still walking with us today.
Christ is not some figure from the distant past. He is alive! He is risen from the dead! And we can know his power in our personal lives. He speaks to us now, here, just as he spoke to his apostles by the seashore, as we hear in the today’s Gospel.
Jesus is with us and with him we can do everything.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we cannot give in to this sadness. We need to make this situation a moment for purification and renewal of our mission — renewal of the Mission of San Gabriel and renewal of the mission that is each one of our lives.
And we do this, by renewing and intensifying our love for Jesus and our devotion to his Word.
And we all are familiar with the parable that Jesus tells us today in the Gospel. It is the parable of the “sower.” Jesus is talking about his own mission — he is the “sower” who goes out to sow the seeds of his Word.
His Word is truth, his Word is life, and he wants to “plant” his Word in the “soil” of every human heart — in your heart and in mine, in every person.4
So today, we especially ask for the grace to open our hearts to the Word of God. Especially the Word that he wants to speak to us in this challenging situation.
He’s calling us to greater love, to never settle for anything less than holiness, nothing less than the glory that is our destiny.
And my brothers and sisters, this is also our mission. It is our call.
St. Junípero and the first Franciscan missionaries answered the Lord’s call and sacrificed everything to bring his Word to this land.
Now it is our turn to make sure his Word is proclaimed to the next generation. We can’t harden our hearts or become distracted by the anxieties and temptations of the world in which we live.
The truth is that Jesus needs each one of us right now — more than ever — to help accomplish his purposes in the world.
We need to see ourselves — every one of us — as people on a mission. As disciples who share in the Master’s mission. The Word we have received, this beautiful treasure that we have — we are called to share.
We are missionary disciples, as we know.
So it’s a challenging, sad, but beautiful moment. A moment of renewal. A moment of beginning again. A moment of seeing how important each one of us, we all are in the eyes of God.
We need to see ourselves, again, as people on a mission.
So, let us go out as St. Junípero did — and proclaim God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s tenderness. Let us go out and proclaim the sanctity and dignity of every human life, and God’s beautiful vision for our lives and our society. For our world.
I think St. Junípero would tell us today: “Siempre Adelante!” Always Forward, and don’t look back.
So let’s ask his intercession, right now. And let’s turn, as he did, every day, to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
May she help us to open our hearts to welcome Jesus — to allow his Word to dwell more richly within us, and to produce beautiful fruits in our lives.5 That we really become missionary disciples in the 21st century.
1. Readings (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time): Isa. 55:10-11; Ps. 65:10-14; Rom. 8:18-23; Matt. 13:1-23.