My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We usually gather for this celebration of Our Lady of the Angels on the feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother on September the 8th. This year, that was last Sunday, so we are a little late this year.
But we also celebrate this week, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. So I think it’s very appropriate that we finish this week and begin the new week with this special celebration when we honor Our Lady of the Angels. It is a beautiful tradition that we are restarting here in the Archdiocese, thanks to the Queen of Angels Foundation.
So I’m very happy to be with all of you today for this special celebration. Beautiful procession and now we’re here around the altar of the Eucharist for the celebration of this beautiful Mass.
In the Gospel passage that we just heard, Jesus makes a beautiful promise to us. It is beautiful passage of the Gospel that we know well and there are many things that we can learn from it. But I was thinking that these words can help us for our reflection in this beautiful celebration today. Jesus says:
I tell you,
there will be rejoicing
among the angels of God!
And I’m sure that the angels are rejoicing in heaven this evening — as we honor our Blessed Mother Mary, who is the Queen of the Angels.
And this feast, as I just said, reminds us that our great city was born under the sign of the angels and under the sign of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This feast reminds us that 232 years ago this month, on September 4, 1781, this city was founded.
And as we all know, our city was named: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula.
“The Town of Our Lady of the Angelsof Porciuncula.”
For the little chapel where St. Francis discovered his vocation.
So my brothers and sisters, we should never forget that Los Angeles has a Christian, Catholic foundation! This great world city with all its movies and fashion and entertainment — this great city was started by humble Catholics for Catholic purposes.
We need to remember our city’s missionary history because this history tells us who we are. This history tells us what we are supposed to be doing as followers of Jesus Christ.
But Los Angeles is still mission territory — just as it was when those first Franciscans arrived to establish this great city.
On this beautiful evening when we remember the Franciscan roots of Los Angeles, I was thinking that it would be good for us to kind of renew our awareness of the life and vocation of St. Francis of Assisi.
Of course we all know, that our new Pope was taken Francis as his name: Pope Francis. And we know that he did that for a reason — to show us his mission for the Church.
So it makes sense that we reflect often on the life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi.
Pope Francis is calling all of us to a deeper simplicity and a deeper humility. The Pope is calling us to follow Jesus in the apostolic style of St. Francis of Assisi. He wants us to love and serve the poor, as St. Francis did. He wants us to be missionaries of God’s mercy and peacemakers, as St. Francis did. The Pope wants us to see our lives as St. Francis did — as a mission to rebuild the Church.
I think we all remember the story of what happened to St. Francis in that little chapel of the Queen of Angels.
How one day he was praying there and he heard Jesus speaking to him from the Cross. And he heard Jesus say: “Build up my house, for it is nearly falling down!”2
And we all know that for a while St. Francis thought that those words were supposed to be, to ask him, in a “literal” way to rebuild that little Church where he was, so he started doing that.
But over time, he came to see a deeper, a more symbolic meaning to this command: “Build my house.” He came to see that Jesus was asking him — not only to fix that little Church, that building, but to rebuild the whole Church.
My brothers and sisters, that’s our mission. We need to renew our Church; we need to build up the Church in Los Angeles — and our Church in our country and throughout our continent.
Our mission is the mission of Jesus Christ. And as St. Paul told us in our second reading this evening:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
In our Gospel tonight, we see Jesus going out into the world on a mission of mercy. Beautiful passage of the Gospel again that we know well. We see him going out to seek the lost. The lost sheep. The lost coin. The lost child of God. That’s our mission too.
In the first reading tonight, from the Book of Exodus, we heard God say to Moses that the people have turned aside from the way I have pointed out to them.
My brothers and sisters, that’s what it means to be “lost.” It means we have gone astray from the way that God shows us how to live. And we know, that sadly, there are so many people out there who are lost.
We know many people have lost their way and do not know God anymore. We need to reach out to them. We need to be the ones who show them God’s mercy. We need to be the ones who seek them out and bring them back to Jesus.
Again, it is our mission. We are the new missionaries of mercy. Reaching out. Going out of ourselves. Looking for them and inviting them to come back to God. To the Church. That they can feel God’s love and mercy in their daily lives.
Each of us has the same duty as St. Paul, as St. Francis. We have to give others what we have received. We have to share the good news of God’s mercy and love.
There’s so much need of God’s love out there for the people of our time.
We have to be excited about it. We really need to ask our Blessed Mother. Now each one of us, is now enthusiastic about our new evangelization. With that real joy of knowing that what we are bringing to our people, as we hear in the passage of the Gospel, God’s love and mercy.
We need to be like that woman in the Gospel parable of the lost coin. We have to have the light of Christ. We have to go out and sweep the house of this world, searching carefully for those who are lost. We need to bring them to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the mercy of God.
So my brothers and sisters, we have a beautiful mission. Just as those first missionaries who came to Los Angeles and founded this beautiful Archdiocese.
So, let make the angels rejoice in heaven tonight! Let’s dedicate our city once more to the protection of Our Lady the Queen of Angels. And let us consecrate ourselves to rebuilding the Church and making this a City of the Angels. A place for the encounter with Jesus Christ.
And let us ask Our Lady, Queen of the Angels for the gift of peace — in our world and in our city, in our neighborhoods and in our families, and in our hearts.
1. Readings (Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C): Exod. 32:7-11, 13-14; Ps. 51:3-4, 12-13, 17-19; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10 or Luke 15:1-32.
2. Jörgensen, St. Francis of Assisi (Image, 1955 ), 4.