We marked a joyous beginning to Advent this past Sunday with our 92nd annual procession and Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego.
Thousands joined us for the mile-long walk from Our Lady of Solitude Church to East Los Angeles College Stadium. It was a glorious witness to the life of our local Church, with families young and old, Catholic school students, priests, religious, and my brother bishops and I, all coming to praise Jesus.
This procession was started in 1931 by the many Catholic refugees from Mexico who had fled the persecution of the Church and were welcomed here by my predecessor, Archbishop John Cantwell.
It is a beautiful story of mercy and hospitality for us to remember at Christmas; for me, this story ties in with the Las Posadas (“The Inns”) tradition, in which Mexican families reenact the experience of Mary and Joseph on that first Christmas night, when they could find no room at the inn.
I think of Jesus’ words: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
All these centuries later, Jesus is still standing and knocking at the door of every heart, still inviting each of us to welcome him, to join him at the table that he has prepared for us in his eternal kingdom.
The Catechism tells us that Jesus is the One “who is” and the One “who comes.”
We live our lives in this balance, in between the gift of his birth in Bethlehem and his promise to come again and gather us in his love at the end of time.
Love came down from heaven on that first Christmas.
In her Virgin womb, holy Mary bore the God who is Love. She bore the Love who created the stars and the heavens, the earth and all that is in it. She bore the Love who still moves the winds and the seas, and who sustains everything that lives and has breath.
But why? Why did Love come down? The answer is in his name: “And you shall call his name Jesus,” the angel told Joseph, “for he will save his people from their sins.”
Love came down to save us from our sins, and from the consequence of our sins, which is death.
The joy of Christmas is the joy of salvation, that beautiful cry of the angel on Christmas night: “To you is born this day … a Savior!”
“Salvation” is one of those religious terms that has become harder to understand as the society around us has grown more secular and materialistic.
Not many people anymore seem to think they need to be “saved.” We are confident in our science and technology; we think we can manage any problem, that we have everything under control.
And it is true: We have made great progress in our standards of living, we have created breakthroughs in medicines and treatments for disease.
But our inventions can never free us from the snares of our sinfulness, can never save us from the many ways we turn away from God and hurt one another.
And no matter how advanced our science may become, we will never discover the “cure” for death.
For this we need a Savior.
Jesus came down from heaven because he knows that we cannot save ourselves, that we could never find our way to heaven without him.
St. Catherine of Siena said, “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of humankind. God does nothing without this goal in mind.”
This is the joyful mystery of Christmas. Jesus comes to reveal that we are loved by God with a love that begins in God’s own heart, a love that begins before the foundation of the world and will continue into all eternity.
Love is the reason for the universe, and love is the reason for your life and mine. God has made each one of us to love and to be loved, to love as we have been loved by him.
This is the promise of salvation that Jesus brings, the promise of a love that never ends.
In this season of salvation, this season of joy, let us open our hearts once again to experience our Savior’s love.
And let us ask him to renew in us the desire to share his love and to make his salvation known to every person.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
And let us ask holy Mary, the cause of our joy, to help us to live each day with the joy of salvation.