My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I know we are still shocked and sad about the attacks in Paris. It is not easy to understand why anyone would want to commit this kind of senseless terror.
So today we pray for our brothers and sisters in France, for those who were killed and wounded and their families. And let us pray for an end to terrorism and violence in the world.
My brothers and sisters, God does not want violence and division in the world. He does not want fear and sorrow. These things are not of God.
God created this world for us to live as his children, as one family with brothers and sisters from all nations and peoples, all races and languages.
So our mission in the Church — the mission that Jesus gave to his Church — is to grow this family, to build God’s Kingdom in creation.
And that is what we are celebrating today here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
We are giving thanks to God today because he has given us a new saint — the great missionary and father of California, St. Junípero Serra.
As we all know, St. Junípero is an L.A. saint.
He ministered right here in this neighborhood, he walked the same ground that we walk. He prayed and celebrated the Eucharist here and founded the San Gabriel and San Bueneventura Missions that are still thriving today.
The Christian faith is alive in Los Angeles and alive in California — because of the ministry of St. Junípero Serra. He and his fellow missionaries, and the pioneering families who worked with them — they laid the foundations for the Church today.
So we give thanks to God for our new saint and we ask him to pray for us as we continue to carry out his mission — the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ to the people of our city and our continent and our world.
My brothers and sisters, St. Junípero’s mission continues in your lives and in mine. I think we all know that we are called by our Baptism to be missionary disciples.
But sometimes, I know, it’s hard for us to think of ourselves as “missionaries.” We think that missionaries are people who leave their homes and travel to far away places. And many of them do. That was the “story” for St. Junípero and the first missionaries who came to this country.
In fact, St. Junípero left his home and his parents in 1749, and he knew he would never see them until they would meet again in heaven. That’s how strong his faith was.
St. Junípero loved Jesus so much, he loved the native peoples of the Americas so much — that he left everything behind and he sailed from Mallorca to Mexico and then came to California. He spent the last 35 years of his life — giving everything to spread the Gospel.
Now most of us do not have to go so far to be missionaries.
But we all need to have that same love for Jesus Christ, that same love for the people of our time and our place. And we are all called to have that same commitment to share our faith and spread God’s Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Now, as I’m sure you noticed: the readings we just heard this morning are giving us a vision of the end of the world.
We heard Jesus talking about the stars falling from the sky and the sun and the moon no longer giving off their light. The prophet Daniel talks about a time of great distress.
But these readings are not meant to scare us. These readings are meant to focus us on the beautiful purpose of our Christian mission. This is what we are working for — the Kingdom of God, the gathering of God’s family.
When Jesus comes at the end of the world, he will come to gather all humanity into his family, to be his people. He says that the Gospel today, that he will “gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”
But that process has already begun. That is the mission that Jesus gave his Church — to carry out God’s beautiful plan of love for creation and for every person.
Our mission is to help Jesus. So that when he comes again he will find a family on earth who loves him and is living according to his teachings.
That’s what God wants — a world of love. A world filled with people living for the love of God, for the love of our brothers and sisters!
That’s what St. Junípero came to California to do! And that’s what we have to do.
So my brothers and sisters, as we look at some of the sadness and violence in the world. As we look at the legacy of St. Junípero, I think we need to make a new commitment to be missionaries in our world. Missionaries building the family of God.
Your mission starts right where you are. Not in a far off country. But where you live. In your home, where you work, at school.
Everywhere you are, you are meeting people who need to hear the good news about Jesus, about God.
My brothers and sisters, each one of you comes in contact with so many people. Beginning right in your own families. If you can share the Gospel with the people you are close to us, that is the beginning of everything. That is your “mission territory.”
And sharing the Gospel does not mean you have to have big words or intellectual conversation. All you need — is just to be happy, just to show that you are happy to know Jesus in your life. If you show others that you are joyful and that you care about them — that’s all it takes.
We change the world by our love, by our kindness. When people see you are joyful, they will know that Jesus has touched your heart and changed your life. And they will want to know Jesus, too.
My brothers and sisters, I had the honor to be on the altar with Pope Francis when he canonized St. Junípero.
And in his homily our Holy Father talked about what made St. Junípero a great missionary.
He said St. Junípero loved to meet people and “he learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met — he made them his brothers and sisters.”
And there is one story from our new saint’s life that I want to share with you.
It was in December 1776 and he was traveling up from San Diego and he had to cross through the territory of the Chumash people. Now this proud people was know to attack missionaries who crossed into their lands.
And it was a rainy season — they used to have rain back then in California. And there was a terrible storm with high winds and high waves. So St. Junípero and his companions could not travel along the coastline. They had to go higher into foothills where the Chumash lived.
But in the foothills, there mudslides and flooded streams that made it impossible to walk. And everyone was worried that the Natives would ambush them.
But what happened was amazing. When the Chumash saw St. Junípero, they picked him — one on each side, and they carried him up the muddy hills to higher ground.
It was a beautiful moment and a sign of friendship, a sign of brotherhood. This is the promise of the Kingdom, my brothers and sisters. This is what the Church’s mission is all about — making friends for God, making others our brothers and sisters.
So let us dedicate ourselves to this mission in our lives. St. Junípero, pray for us!
And let’s ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, who guided the first mission to the Americas, to inspire us to a new continental mission, to live the way Jesus teaches us to live and to serve God and one another with love and mercy.
1. Readings (Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): Dan. 12:1-3; Ps. 16; Heb. 10:11-14; Mark 13:24-32.