My brother priests, my brothers and sisters in Christ,1
In our readings this evening, we heard both the prophet Isaiah and Jesus announce a Jubilee Year — a year of favor from the Lord; a year acceptable to the Lord.
In the Scriptures, as we know, the Jubilee is a time of conversion and reconciliation. A time when God opens the doors to salvation a little wider, so that everyone can discover in a new way — his grace, his mercy and his peace.2
And as we all know, Pope Francis recently announced a new Jubilee.
He is calling it the Holy Year of Mercy. It is going to start at the end of this year, on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and it will continue until Christ the King Sunday, next November, 2016.
This Jubilee Year of Mercy is obviously a beautiful initiative by our Holy Father, Pope Francis — and one that is close to my heart.
I wanted to share with all of you tonight, probably you already know, but when I was first appointed a bishop, 14 years ago this year, according to the custom and as everyone does, I was asked to select an “episcopal motto” — a new phrase from Scripture — to express my vision for my pastoral ministry.
And I chose a passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us go forth with confidence to the throne of grace.”
I chose these words because God’s throne is the mercy seat, and we go to his throne to receive his mercy and to find his grace in our time of need, as the complete verse says.3
And I was thinking this past week about the new Jubilee and about the amazing reality of God’s mercy. And I was praying about us, my dear brother priests. Because I think mercy is our special calling. I have felt that way since the day I was first ordained a priest, and I’m sure that many of you too.
My brothers, we have a great vocation, a ministry of mercy!
So dear brothers priests, we are God’s first co-workers in this great mission of mercy.
What a wonderful and amazing privilege!
Our mission is the mission that Jesus described in today’s passage of the Gospel, the same mission of mercy foretold by the Prophet Isaiah in today’s reading:
To bring glad tidings to the poor …
to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
And this is, my dear brothers, what I have witnessed that you do in your parishes and in your ministries.
So, on behalf of all of us, thank you for your vocation, for your ministry, and for your unconditional dedication to the family of God in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
But as we heard this afternoon, in our retreat, there is much more to do, isn’t it true? I’m not sure I want to invite Father Larry Christian again.
I also believe that mercy is the mission of every Christian and the mission of the Church.
The Church exists to evangelize. And the mercy of God is always the “content” of evangelization — the good news, the glad tidings that the Church proclaims.
This has been my vision for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for this past four years and it is for the future too.
Because I want all of us to be a Church that evangelizes. A Church that makes God’s love real for every person in our society.
My brothers and sisters, mercy is our mission. For all of us! It’s not only a duty for bishops, priests, deacons and religious.
All of us are called by our Baptism to be missionary disciples, walking in the footsteps of all those immigrants, missionaries and martyrs who have gone before us. We are called to carry on their project — the great adventure of building a New World of Faith!
And these oils that we bring tonight for consecration are a sign of our mission of mercy.
We bring these oils to the altar so that God can bless them and make them — oils of anointing and healing; oils that will communicate God’s mercy and the gladness of his salvation.
So tonight, let us ask for the grace to make a new commitment to live as Jesus taught us to live — to be merciful to others as God is merciful to us.
This September in Washington, D.C., the Pope is going to canonize Blessed Junípero Serra.
And I believe his canonization is going to be a time of grace for all of us, and for our whole country. St. Junípero Serra will be the first American saint to be canonized on American soil. And he will be canonized by Pope Francis, the first Pope of the Americas, the first Pope from the New World.
I believe Padre Serra is a great model for the whole Church in our mission of mercy, the continental mission of the new evangelization.
In one of his sermons, Blessed Junípero said:
“God is complete mercy, complete love, and complete tenderness toward all people, even toward the most ungrateful sinners.” And he went on to say, “The Lord wishes all people to attain the ends for which he compassionately created us. He yearns that we might believe that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that we might advance toward the salvation he wills for us.”4
My brother priests, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is our mission now.
Like the first missionaries that came to this city and this continent, we need to proclaim the beautiful reality of God’s compassion and tenderness. We are called to be missionaries of the love and mercy of God. It’s a beautiful adventure and we need to be really excited about it.
Going out, bringing the beauty of God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters.
So as we continue in this Holy Week of our redemption, I pray that Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of Mercy and the Mother of the New Evangelization — help all of to be missionary disciples and messengers of divine mercy.
1. Readings (Chrism Mass, Year B): Isa. 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; Ps. 89:21-22, 25, 27; Rev. 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21.
2. Lev. 25:13; 2 Cor. 6:2.
3. Heb. 4:16, 9:5.
4. Beebe and Senkewicz, Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary.