My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It is always a special joy to gather for this our Eucharistic celebration of cultures. It is a special moment in the life of the Archdiocese as we gather as the family of God to give thanks for our faith and to celebrate our cultures.
So every time when we gather, for this Mass, it is just beautiful, even just to look around! And see what the Kingdom of Heaven is going to be like. That music was beautiful, thank you. Helps us to feel like we are in Heaven, isn’t it? Beautiful music.
But just who we are? That’s exactly what Sacred Scripture tells us: A great multitude that no one can number — from every tribe and tongue, people and nation — all gathered to worship around the throne of God!2
This is God’s glorious vision for the Church! And this, this who we are, my dear brothers and sisters! One family of God — a rich diversity of nationalities and cultures from all the ends of the earth.
So it is a moment of special joy, I think for all of us, as we gather for the celebration of Holy Mass today.
Today, as you know, we are getting ready for the Synod of Bishops on the Family that starts tomorrow in Rome. So let us especially pray today that the Synod will help all of us to see God’s glorious plan for marriage and the family.
Also, today as I mentioned at the beginning of Mass and we all know, today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. And we gather with the theme Francis: compassion for all and love for God’s creation. So it’s very appropriate that we have this celebration on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Also we know that Our Holy Father Pope Francis has taken the name Francis because he believes that this saint has a special meaning for our times.
And also, for us here in Los Angeles, St. Francis has a special meaning because the Franciscan missionaries evangelized our city and they named the city, as also we know, “Our Lady of the Angels,” after that little chapel where St. Francis first discovered his mission.
So today, we celebrate the Church that has grown up from the seeds that the Missionaries planted. This great local Church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in all its beautiful diversity.
So, in a sense, we are a new creation in Christ, as St. Paul tells us that in the second reading of today’s Mass.
This is what Jesus offers us. New life. A new creation. A new family of God. We heard his promise in the Gospel passage that we heard this morning. He said:
Come to me … and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.
What a beautiful saying! Now sometimes, I imagine how Jesus was talking to the apostles and the people that came to him, and when I read this passage of the Gospel, I always think of Jesus speaking these words in a gentle way, with a lot of love, with his arms wide open. He was looking at them and telling them: Come to me! Learn for me! For I am meek and humble of heart.
And today, once again, as we reflect on this beautiful passage of the Gospel, and when we celebrate today, Jesus is talking to each one of us and telling us: Come to me! Learn from me!
Jesus is calling all of us to a new personal encounter with him. He’s saying to each one of us: Come and learn!
But how do we learn from Jesus? Obviously, we learn by getting to know him. By watching him. By listening to his words. And by following his example and walking in his footsteps.
What everything, my dear brothers and sisters, depends on is that personal encounter with Jesus Christ! Everything depends on our living relationship with Jesus Christ.
We must make him the pattern for our lives. He should be the reason we live and the way we live. He must be our way, our truth and our life. His heart must become our heart.
It is true. That is what we’re all trying to do. But today we have this new opportunity, personally and as an Archdiocese, to reflect on this beautiful way of Christian holiness.
The passage of the Gospel that we heard today was a beautiful passage of the Gospel. And it was very important for St. Francis, because this Gospel passage changed his life!
And this Gospel also should change our lives! Every time we hear it, we should change a little more. We should become a little more like Jesus. Every day being a little more conformed to his life.
Identifying ourselves with him. That’s the way St. Francis lived.
We all remember the story of what happened to St. Francis in that little chapel of the Queen of Angels.
One day, remember, he was praying there and he heard Jesus speaking to him from the Cross. And Jesus told him: “Build up my house!”3
My brothers and sisters, that is our mission. To build up his house, the household of God, the family of God. The mission of the Church, ur family, begins with each one of us.
Jesus is also asking each one of us, as he asked St. Francis, build up my house.
This is the challenge of our universal Catholic identity. As we also know, Catholic means universal, that we are brothers and sisters from every nation under Heaven. Now the challenge for us, is to personally and as a Church, build up God’s house — the Church.
Now the challenge we have is to really live as one family of God. We all know that that’s what God wants. But in practice, sometimes, there are many challenges in our society and in the world in which we live. We tend to be in our own little world, associating ourselves with our own groups, so we need to keep working at it.
And again, today is a beautiful opportunity for all of us to reflect on that and, you know, see how important it is for all of us, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, to give an example to the whole world of how we live as the family of God.
We all need to be like St. Francis, spreading love and friendship with other people. Breaking down walls and barriers. Building understanding and being peacemakers.
We build up the household of God, the family of God — by the witness of our lives. What a beautiful challenge!
Especially now that Pope Francis is giving us a beautiful example of how to go out and meet the people where they are. That’s our mission, my brothers and sisters!
So today, as we celebrate the beautiful family of God that has been born here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — let’s ask for the grace to come to Jesus once more in this Eucharist and to learn from him. To have his heart. His attitudes, his way of dealing with things.
And let us ask St. Francis, especially, to help us grow in humility and simplicity. To be more detached from possessions. So we can share more of what we have with those in need.
And let us especially pray for peace in the world and for peace in the Church. Peace that begins with us. We need to get rid of anything that is separating us from others. We need to be healers and bridge-builders. And as we pray for peace, let us work for peace too. Peace is something we build, something we have to “make.” Every day, in every circumstance — in our families, in work, in our social relations. Everywhere!
What a beautiful mission we have!
So let’s keep working on our mission — of building up the family of God.
As we all know, and I finish with this, St. Francis used to greet people with a little prayer: “May the Lord grant you peace.” So let’s make that prayer our prayer. The prayer that we pray for one another.
May our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, help us all to always spread that message of peace — heart to heart — to everyone we meet.
1. Readings: Sir. 50:1, 3-4, 6-7; Gal. 6:14-18; Matt. 11:25-30.
2. Rev. 7:9.
3. Jörgensen, St. Francis of Assisi (Image, 1955 [1912[), 4.