My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Great to be with all of you today at this liturgy to celebrate the Christian Service Awards.The awards are, as we all know, about service. About doing service to God and all his people.
So we are here to honor your service. To honor your witness to Jesus Christ! So congratulations to you all! You an inspiration all of us!
But today, we also celebrate the inauguration of our new Pope, Pope Francis. Which is a moment of grace and joy for the universal Church. We have a nice picture of him right here. I was saying this Sunday that the marketing of the Vatican is doing well. They got a big picture of the Pope in Los Angeles.
It is a really beautiful moment for the life of the Church. It seems to me that we are very very happy with the election of the Pope. Today, in Rome, the pope, Pope Francis celebrated his inaugural mass. So it’s a beautiful coincidence that we are together celebrating Mass thinking of what our Church is celebrating: the inaugurate of the Pope and what that means is service.
I think we are thinking of the new pope and it is very special because he is the first Latin American Pope, the first Pope from the American continent. Which is a beautiful sign of the importance of the Catholic Church in this continent.
Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict they all talked about how this continent is the continent of hope. So that gives us a lot of, on the one side, a lot of joy, because we know that we are here and that we are active participants in the life of the Church. And at the same time it gives us a big responsibility, because really the Catholic Church depends on us, on each one of us. The Universal Church depends on the faithfulness of the Church on the American continent.
We are learning little things about the Pope. We know that he is from Argentina. And we know that his parents were immigrants to Argentina from Italy. He is the son of a humble immigrant who grows up to become the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics in every continent and nation! What a beautiful reality of what the human person —independently of where we were born and where we are — can do for God and for society.
And it is also very interesting, I’m sure that you are happy with that, that he selected his name as Francis. Because St. Francis of Assisi, who probably the Church’s most well-known saint after the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For believers and non-believers, St. Francis has always been a symbol of the spirit of the Gospel, of service. With his simple lifestyle, his humble service to the poor, his love for creation, and his attitude of nonviolence and forgiveness. He has given us a beautifiul example of how to be a good Christian — a good disciple of Jesus Christ.
So it is a good moment to reflect on the life and example of St. Francis of Assisi. Because that’s our call to —our call is a call to follow Jesus Christ; or belonging to the Catholic Church; or following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Means that we are called to holiness and to serve one another, especially those that are most in need.
So it is good to try to learn a little more about the life of St. Francis of Assisi, his writings. Because he has a lot to teach us about how to imitate Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Holy Father said, Pope Francis said, that he decided that that name was good for him because he wanted to the Church to be a Church of the poor and for the poor.
So our beautiful call for all of us, at this time in our lives — our beautiful challenge that we really commit ourselves to serve God and one another. That is what the Church is really about, not about power or other things that we can think of. And that’s what our life is supposed to be. And that’s what we are celebrating today — service, love, faithfulness, commitment and especially the beauty of being called to follow Jesus Christ.
And today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. So let me address St. Joseph. I really wanted to talk to you about St. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi. Two beautiful examples of how to be a good Christian.
St. Joe, as we know, is the father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the spouse of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. For me, he has a special meaning cause that’s my name. So, it’s easy to relate to him, because when I think of my name, I think of St. Joseph. By the way, José means Joseph in English.
St. Joseph’s life was one of singular love and service to God. We heard that in our Gospel reading this morning. It is interesting that in all of the Gospels, St. Joseph never speaks. Not one word. He only acts. The messengers of God come to him, they tell him what God needs him to do — and Joseph does it.
As we heard in our Gospel today: When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.
From the example of St. Joseph we receive an invitation to serve. To act in the service of God and his people. To serve with faithfulness, with simplicity, and with humility. So my brothers and sister, let us follow the example of St. Joseph; let us do whatever God asks us — with love and with enthusiasm.
If you have a spirit of love, it’s like a fire. If you touch others with your love, you will set them on fire with the same love for God. What a beautifiul responsibility we have a responsibility to change the world, instead of our selfishness — instead of just thinking about ourselves, and looking for material things. Our call as Christians, as Catholics, is to bring the fire of the love of God to the people of our society. To change lives for the good.
So congratulations, my young friends! We are proud of your witness to Jesus Christ and the mission of his Church. Let us keep in mind, as we celebrate the election of the new Pope, the example of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph.
And let us ask Our Lady of the Angels, to help us all to follow our new Pope with love and obedience and may we all become servants of one another and become servants of God.
1. Readings (Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Year C): 2 Sam. 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Ps. 89:2-5, 27, 29; Rom. 4:13, 16-18, 22; Matt. 1:16, 18-21, 24a.