When Roses Bloom in Winter
A Reflection on Our Lady of Guadalupe
Adapted from the archbishop’s homily at the 82nd annual procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in East Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 2013:
This is beautiful, to see all of you and your families.
Thanks be to God! Let’s thank him for the gift of our Catholic faith! Let’s praise God for all his graces and blessings in our lives! Let’s give glory to Jesus Christ and his Mother and our Mother — Our Lady of Guadalupe!
My brothers and sisters, recently I was in Mexico City — at the shrine of the Virgin. And we received a special video message from our Holy Father, Pope Francis. The Pope told us many beautiful things.
He reminded us that Our Lady of Guadalupe is a special gift that God gave to the Mexican people. She did not appear to any other people. She came to St. Juan Diego, a humble Indian, a humble Mexican, an ordinary working person — with his own joys and challenges in his work and in his family. The Virgin came to an ordinary person who is just like us, a Latino.
And the Virgin came with a message. She came with the good news of faith, the good news of God’s mercy and love. And she wrapped that message up in Juan Diego’s tilma — in the beautiful sign of the roses that were blooming in the middle of the winter. We know roses don’t bloom in winter! Not in December in Mexico City!
But with God all things are possible! With God all things work for the good of those who love him! We can do all things in him. He will strengthen us!
So Our Lady gave this beautiful gift of the roses. But she did not give this gift only to St. Juan Diego. She gave that gift to him — and she told him to bring that gift to others, to the Church, to the bishop. And she told him that the Church needs to carry that gift — the good news of God’s love — to every family and every person.
The gift of Our Lady of Guadalupe was not just for the Mexican people. God chose the Mexican people to be his messengers.
This is still our mission, my brothers and sisters. The Virgin calls us to be God’s servants in bringing his good news to all the world. We are Mexicans! We are Latin-Americans, Latinos. That means something very special! That means we are Catholics. We are the holders of the faith. We have those roses that Our Lady gave to St. Juan Diego. God entrusted his message — the whole truth about who he is, about how much he loves us, about what he wants for the world. He entrusted his message not to any other people, but to us, each one of us. We are his people.
We have to be children of the light. We have to live like Catholics! We have to live like people of God.
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 have to open our hearts and our lives to other people, just like St. Juan Diego did. We have to open our hearts, open our lives — and show people the love inside. We have to show people the love of God, the beautiful promise of Jesus Christ.
This is what the Virgin wants from us. This is what it means to share our faith. It means loving people, caring for them, showing them mercy, and especially forgiveness.
We don’t forgive enough, my brothers and sisters! This is what hurts our families. This is what hurts our relationships, when we don’t forgive. People are going to hurt us. It happens every day. In little ways and sometimes in big ways, we get hurt. But staying angry or resentful doesn’t heal anything. It just makes things hurt longer. So we need to forgive others, just as God forgives us. Every time! All the time!
And we need to pray more, my brothers and sisters. Just our simple prayers — they are so powerful. The Our Father, the Hail Mary. The Glory Be. Say them all the time, when we are working, when we are helping our children, when we are waiting for the bus. It’s better than checking our cellphones! Let’s use the little time we have to say little prayers, to have a little conversation with God!
My brothers and sisters, our families are the most important thing! We need to make them stronger.
Every good thing begins with God and with our love — our prayer and sacrifice. So we need to work in our families so that our love grows. Let’s make our families truly Catholic, like the Virgin wanted! Let’s go to church more. Let’s pray more. Let’s teach our children all the prayers and beautiful promises of our Catholic faith. Let’s love like the Virgin wants us to love.
My brothers and sisters, in the special message that Pope Francis gave to us at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said this:
“Dear brothers and sisters … I beg you, as your father and brother in Jesus Christ, to take care of the faith you received in baptism. And, like the mother and grandmother of Timothy, hand on the faith to your children and grandchildren, and not only to them. This treasure of faith is not given for our own personal use. It is meant to be given, to be handed on, and in this way it grows. Make the Name of Jesus known. If you do this, do not be amazed if the roses of Castille bloom in the dead of winter. For you know, we and Jesus have the same Mother!”
This is a beautiful, very personal, message for each one of us. So let’s live our faith with love. Let’s be good children, good Guadalupanos. Let’s have confidence in Jesus! He gave us his own Mother to be our Mother!
Let’s make his name known! The Pope is right — if we trust in him, roses are going to bloom in our lives. We will see signs of God’s love everywhere in our lives, in places and times where we don’t expect them!
And let’s love our Mother with more tender love! Let’s ask her to care for our families and protect us! And let us ask her — his Mother and our Mother — to make new love for Jesus grow like roses in our hearts.
Archbishop Jose Gomez is the archbishop of Los Angeles.