I’ve always liked the fact that Advent comes at the end of our calendar year, but it marks the beginning of the new Church year.
Advent reminds us that Jesus makes all things new, and that with Jesus every ending is a new beginning. From out of death — the ultimate “ending” — Jesus brings the new beginning of the Resurrection and new life in his Kingdom without end.
This week we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose apparitions in December of 1531 marked a new beginning in salvation history — the bringing of the Gospel to the “new world” of the Americas.
This new beginning was marked by a miracle. The Virgin of Guadalupe made roses bloom and St. Juan Diego wrapped those roses up in his tilma. When he opened it again, the roses had had left their mark on the tilma, revealing the beautiful image of the Virgin.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is God’s gift to the Americas. And we are blessed to have, in a beautiful chapel of gold in our Cathederal, a tiny piece of this precious cloth that was touched by God.
This relic connects Los Angeles in a deep spiritual way with the first evangelization of the new world. It reminds us that the new beginning of Guadalupe — what Our Lady started on that hillside outside Mexico City — continues in our day.
God is still working to make this world his Kingdom, a new world of faith and hope, justice and love. And he is doing this work through us.
We are called to help God bring salvation to his creation. We are called to carry the good news of Jesus into our daily lives — just as St. Juan Diego carried those miraculous roses in his cloak.
Our faith is like those roses in St. Juan Diego’s tilma. Our faith is a gift that God has wrapped up in the “tilma” of our own lives, the “tilma” of our own hearts.
We are called to touch people and open their hearts to the reality of God’s presence and activity in our world and in our lives. Just like St. Juan Diego did.
There are little miracles of his love and mercy happening everywhere, every day. We need to help people to see these miracles. We need to do that by loving people more. Caring for them. Showing them mercy. And especially forgiveness.
So this week as we pray for one another, let’s ask for the grace and strength to carry out our mission to share the love of God and change the world as disciples of Jesus.
I am also praying this week with our Holy Father Pope Francis and millions around the world for the soul of the great South African leader, Nelson Mandela, who died last week.
In Mandela, the world recognizes a man of peace, who was willing to offer his life in sacrifice for human dignity, truth and reconciliation. These are universal qualities that we all admire, regardless of our religion or our politics.
As Catholics, we know that we are called to have an influence in our society. To be peacemakers and seekers of justice and the common good. But most of us will not carry out our Christian duties on a world stage. Most of us will not spend decades in prison for this cause, as Mandela did.
But we can make a difference in the world — and we must.
Blessed Mother Teresa used to tell a story about a man who returned a fish to the water. People made fun of him. “You saved one fish, so what?” they said. “Tomorrow there will be hundreds more fish that wash up on the shore. What difference did you make?” And the man answered: “For that one fish, I made all the difference in the world. I saved him.”
The point is that we are called to help God save the world — one soul at a time. We can start in our homes, in our families, with the people who are closest to us. Let’s make love grow in our families by giving more of ourselves. Sometimes that’s all it takes to bring God to someone else. Just the gift of our time!
In this holy season as we wait for Jesus, let’s also remember those who are lonely and sad and feeling vulnerable at this time of year. Let’s pray for them and let’s reach out to show love to them.
The best way for us to prepare for Christmas is to take Mary as our model and intercessor. So let us accompany her along with St. Joseph, as we make our way to Bethlehem — and a new beginning of love and compassion in our hearts
Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.