As I write, I’m on my way home from a meeting of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The gathering in Mexico City brought together bishops and lay leaders from Rome and across the Americas to consider the topic, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent.” It was a beautiful way to conclude the Year of Faith. Because the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the true spiritual foundation of America. And in our day, she continues to call us to bring men and women to faith in Jesus. As I wrote in my pastoral letter (http://www.la-archdiocese.org/archbishop/newworld/Pages/default.aspx) to mark the beginning of this Year of Faith: “Our Lady of Guadalupe was sent by God to be the bright star at the dawn of the first evangelization of the New World. … [and] the bright star of the new evangelization.” Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan Diego outside Mexico City in the first generation after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. And the beautiful Castillian roses that miraculously bloomed in winter and formed Our Lady’s image on his tilma, were a sign of the faith that would soon flower throughout the Americas. I believe that in our time God is calling the Church in the Americas to once more be the center of a new mission. I believe God is calling us to lead the new evangelization of our continent and our world. To make a new world of faith. That’s why it is providential that in this Year of Faith, God gave us our first Pope from the Americas, from the New World. Pope Francis delivered a strong video message to our gathering in Mexico City. The Church is “in a permanent state of mission,” he told us. Everyone and everything we do in the Church must have a “missionary character.” It’s so important for all of us to reclaim this basic understanding of our Christian identity! Our Baptism makes us disciples. And being a disciple means being a missionary, an evangelizer. Evangelization is all about the encounter with the Lord. And we are the ones who are called to bring others to that encounter. “The aim of all pastoral activity is always guided by the missionary impulse to reach everyone, without excluding anyone, and keeping in consideration the special circumstances of each person,” Pope Francis said. The Pope again reminded us that evangelization means going to people — wherever they are at. We are called to walk with our neighbors, talking to them about what they hope for and what they are afraid of. Seeking always to inspire them to that encounter with Jesus Christ and his love. The Pope reminded us once more that evangelization means sharing good news. The good news of God’s love and mercy for sinners. “He abandons no one, and always shows his tenderness and his boundless mercy — and therefore this is what we must bring to all people,” he said. My hope for this Year of Faith has been that we would all recover our missionary vocation. Our faith is not for us alone. Our faith is given to us to be shared. We can’t say this enough! We need to carry his Gospel into every area of our lives. The mission begun by Our Lady of Guadalupe — the evangelization of the Americas — continues in us. And it is providential that this Sunday, when we mark the end of the Year of Faith, will mark the 300th birthday of the great apostle to California, Blessed Junípero Serra, who was born November 24, 1713. If you haven’t yet had the chance to see the exhibit, “Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions,” at the Huntington Library, I urge you to do it. This exhibit will inspire your heart with a new desire to grow in faith and to serve the Church’s mission of bringing the Gospel to everyone. So as we gather with our families this week for Thanksgiving, let’s thank God for the gift of faith and God’s love in our lives. And let’s pray for the courage of Padre Serra and the grace to be new evangelizers of the Americas. “Make known the name of Jesus,” Pope Francis said at the end of his talk to us in Mexico. Then he added a reference to the miracle of roses at Guadalupe. If we proclaim Christ, he said, we will see great things in our lives and in our world. “If you do this,” he said, “do not be surprised that the roses of Castille grow in winter. Because, you know, both Jesus and we have the same Mother!” So let us ask Our Lady of Guadalupe — who is his Mother and our Mother — to make new love for Jesus to grow in our hearts. And may she guide to fulfill her mission — of evangelizing the American continent. Archbishop Gomez’s new 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.