On Sept. 8, Archbishop Gomez led a candlelight prayer service to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. The following is adapted from his homily.

Tonight we celebrate the birthday of Our Lady and the birth of this historic Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.

In God’s plan of love, Mary is the one who brings us Jesus Christ. In every time and in every place. This is the beautiful role that God has given Our Lady in salvation history.

As we remember her birth, we recall her destiny. We recall that in the fullness of time, the Archangel Gabriel was sent to bring Mary a message from God.

What the Archangel Gabriel told Mary changed her life. And what Mary said in response to the angel changed the world: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” And the word of God became flesh in Mary’s womb. 

And this is why we are here. Two hundred fifty years ago, on this night, the nativity of the Blessed Virgin, San Gabriel Mission was established by St. Junípero Serra and his Franciscan brothers, together with the noble Tongva natives, who are the first peoples of this land.

In these past 250 years, a great family of God has been built upon this “rock” — the Catholic Church of Los Angeles, the Church of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. Upon this rock, God made a new beginning for his kingdom in America.

The founders of this mission remembered Mary’s role in salvation history, and they remembered the angel that God sent to her. And they entrusted their work to them.

Mary is the original missionary. She is the first to go out into the world and speak to someone else about the joy of meeting her Lord and Savior.

We remember how Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. We remember this moment of joy in the rosary, the beautiful surprise of Elizabeth’s encounter with Christ.

This is your mission and mine. This is what we are made for, this is why we are here on this earth — to know Jesus, to love Jesus, and to proclaim Jesus as the only name under heaven by which we are saved.

Jesus gives his Church, and each one of us in his Church, only one mission: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Sometimes I wonder what it felt like for those missionaries — leaving behind their homes and families, knowing they would never be coming back. What would cause someone to set out for a place they have never seen, to serve a people they do not even know?

There is a beautiful letter in which St. Junípero talks about leaving Spain for the New World, and his feelings knowing that he will never see his parents again:

“I am at a loss for words, yet overwhelmed by emotion as I depart. … If we do not see one another again in this life, our Lord God will deem us worthy of being together forever in eternal glory. … Above all else, our first obligation is to do the will of God and fulfill it. I have left them because of the love of God.”

Love is the reason St. Junípero came to California. And love is the reason for Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. Love for Jesus Christ. Love for every person whom Jesus Christ came to live and die for.

So, we stand tonight on the rock of those who came before us. We thank God tonight for those first missionaries and natives. For their suffering and sacrifices. For bringing us to Jesus.

And especially now, as we start this jubilee year, Jesus is calling all of us to build on the foundation that was laid here 250 years ago. He is calling us to keep building God’s kingdom in Los Angeles. In America. And throughout this continent.

A jubilee year is not just an anniversary. It is a new beginning. Almighty God will be pouring out many graces upon his Church in this holy year.

So let us make this a year when we live for Jesus! With joy in our hearts. Doing everything we can, in everything we do, to share his love with others!

And may our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of the Angels, help us to walk in the footsteps of her Son, and to love him and proclaim him. In our homes, in our parishes and ministries, in our schools, and in our society.

San Gabriel Arcángel, pray for us!

St. Junípero Serra, pray for us!