LOS ANGELES — The words Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to St. Juan Diego when she appeared to him in 1531 on Tepeyac Hill are the words “she speaks to us,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.
He quoted those words in a homily: “Do not let your heart be disturbed. Do not fear. … Am I, your mother, not here? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my arms? What more do you need?”
“My brothers and sisters, our mother is speaking these words to the church today. And to each one of us,” Archbishop Gomez said in his homily for midnight Mass at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The liturgy began at midnight Dec. 11 and went into the early hours of Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Tonight,” he continued, “Our Lady is speaking these words to all of you who are worried about your immigration status and the changes in our country.”
“She is speaking these tender words of assurance especially to the ‘Dreamers,'” he said, referring to young people protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which will end in March unless Congress passes the proposed DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.
The measure would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and others in the country without documents.
The Mass followed an annual “serenata,” or musical tribute, to Mary that began at 11 p.m. Dec. 11. It is a traditional serenade to the Virgin of Guadalupe — “Las Mananitas” — to honor her for her feast day. It is a Mexican birthday song.
“Las Mananitas” came a few hours after a celebration of indigenous dancers on the Cathedral Plaza and the veneration of the relic of the “tilma,” or cloak, of St. Juan Diego, on which the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531. The cathedral is home to the only relic of the tilma outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The celebration continued with recitation of a special rosary inside the cathedral, accompanied by the Cathedral Spanish Choir. After the rosary, Mariachi Los Toros gave a presentation.
“My brothers and sisters, tonight we lay our fears and hopes at the feet of the Virgin. We ask for the grace to contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes,” Archbishop Gomez said in his homily. He also asked for prayers for all affected by the raging wildfires in Southern California.
Part of his homily was devoted to recounting the summer pilgrimage he led from the Los Angeles Archdiocese to Mexico City’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Like many of you, I had made that pilgrimage many times with my family, since I was a young child,” he said. “But as a priest, it is something special to be there. It causes strong emotions for me to now be a priest and to have the privilege to celebrate the holy Mass at the main altar in the basilica.”
With the altar directly underneath the miraculous image of Mary, “when you are there, you can truly feel the warmth of her tender eyes,” the archbishop said. “You really know that you are loved in a special way by the mother of God. And this is true for all of us. This is what we are celebrating tonight.”
He called on all in the congregation to lay their fears and hopes “at the feet of the Virgin” that night.
“We ask for the grace to contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We know that she is our protector, our advocate.”
In the second reading for the Mass, from the Book of Revelation, “we see Mary defending her child, defending the church against the devil,” he said.
“This is her role. She wraps us in her mantle, in the beautiful ’tilma,'” the archbishop said. “And she guides us, all the days of our lives, like a mother, to the throne of God.”
Just as she went to her cousin, Elizabeth, in her own hour of need, as told in the night’s Gospel reading, “Our Lady is still making her ‘visitation’ to us. She hears our cries, our cares — and she comes to us. Always! This is what families do! We stand together, we help one another!”
He urged all “to be more like our Blessed Mother.”
“God wants us to be deeply involved in the lives of others — especially in the lives of those in our families,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We need to stick together. We need to make our families and our communities strong — by being strong people ourselves. By living with virtue — just living the “golden rule.” This is the foundation for a good life — trying to be like Jesus.”
Jesus said “that we need to treat others as we want to be treated. Very simple. But we need to keep being reminded,” he added.
Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe entrusted St. Juan Diego with the task of seeing that a shrine would be built in her name, Archbishop Gomez said, she calls “each one of us to ‘build a shrine’ with our lives. To be a beautiful example in our own lives of the men and women that God wants us to be.”
Just as Mary wanted her shrine in Mexico “to be a place where people would find God’s ‘love, compassion, help, comfort and salvation,'” today she “is calling us to show God’s love and compassion to our brothers and sisters and to work for a society that is worthy of the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Gomez said.