My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying, this is a special day for all of us, especially here at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
We are privileged today to be able to pray in the presence of four great saints, whose sacred relics are with us today in this Holy Mass.
St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are saints from England and they were martyrs for conscience and witnesses to freedom.
Blessed Oscar Romero was a martyr for religious liberty here in the Americas — a witness to the faith in El Salvador.
And St. Junípero Serra, of course, was the great missionary founder of Los Angeles and California — and Pope Francis has called him “one of the founding fathers of the United States.”
And as I said, today is the first time that we are celebrating St. Junípero’s feast day since Pope Francis canonized him last year in Washington, D.C.
We are in the final days of a time of prayer for our country that is called “The Fortnight for Freedom.”
Something that the Catholic bishops of the United States started sometime ago, this time of prayer to especially reflect about the need to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience in our country.
So in the presence of these holy relics, we join today with Catholics across the country in continuing to pray for our nation as we prepare for Independence Day.
These saints remind us that all the lands of the Americas and Europe have deep Christian roots, roots that were planted by missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.
And as we ask these saints today to intercede for us and to inspire us to a new commitment to follow Jesus Christ and be missionary disciples and witnesses to his Gospel.
Jesus, once again today, is calling us to follow him — just as we heard in the Gospel reading today, the great story about the calling of the apostle, St. Matthew.
And following Jesus means, as we know, sharing in his mission, the Church’s mission of spreading the good news of God’s mercy and salvation. Just as St. Matthew did and just as these saints that we honor today did.
My brothers and sisters, we are called to live our faith in Jesus Christ in everything we do. We are called to follow Jesus in the way we live, in the way we treat people. In the priorities we have for our lives and for our society.
It is a beautiful call. A call to service and to love one another. It is a call to love our neighbors — to talk with them, to walk with them, to serve them with compassion. It is call to defend their freedom and dignity.
But following Jesus means that sometimes we are going to come into conflict with the authorities in our society — just as Jesus did and just as the saints and martyrs did.
I was thinking as I was coming in, these four saints have challenges with the authorities where they lived. All of them — it’s interesting isn’t it?
It’s part of our Christian call, because we are bringing the teachings of Jesus to a society that is becoming more and more secular.
We are living in challenging times. Our society and our culture are becoming more and more secularized.
Sadly, also sometimes, our government is becoming more antagonistic. Sometimes we see policies that are trying to make us compromise our beliefs or deny the commandment that Jesus gives us to love and serve our neighbors.
And we realize that this is happening not just in our country, but also all over the world as sadly, again, the reality of modern society
Even as we come together to celebrate Holy Mass today, we know that there are many Christians — in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere — who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus.
We ask these saints today to intercede for the persecuted Church, to give our brothers and sisters courage and hope.
What we are experience today — in our country and in the world — is something that the martyrs and saints have always taught us. And that is: that discipleship has a price. The freedom to follow Jesus Christ is not free.
It’s a beautiful call, but no doubt that there is a challenge because we are called to bring mercy and love to a society that sometimes is based on hatred, violence, selfishness. But it is a beautiful call.
So in the presence of these relics of the saints and martyrs who have gone before us, let us ask God to give us new courage and new strength. Let us ask for the grace to take up our cross and to follow Jesus Christ. To be witnesses to freedom and truth and the mercy and love of God.
Let us ask Our Blessed Mother Mary, the mother of all of us, to watch over our country, the beautiful United States of America. May she help us all to discover a new love for Christ and a new respect for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
1. Readings: (Friday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Year C): Amos 8:4–6, 9–12; Matt. 9:9–13.