Homily from Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller at Nov. 22 vespers service

I welcome all of you to this prayer service this evening. In a special way I greet Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to Mexico, bishops and priests — esteemed ecumenical and interfaith leaders — and distinguished representatives of the civic community. ¡A todos, les doy la mas cordial bienvenida !

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is good for us to come together at prayer for the first time here — in this Plaza in front of San Fernando Cathedral and in the official center of our City of San Antonio. One of the first four churches built here in San Antonio in 1731, San Fernando has been called the “soul of the city: la cathedral de San Fernando es bien conocida como el alma de la ciudad.”   And so, we gather here this evening — from many places in this country and from around the world — as our brothers and sisters in the faith have done for nearly 400 hundred years, to pray together as we mark a new beginning in the history of this local church.

There is rich symbolism in our gathering this evening Volvamos nuestra atención a los signos y simbolos de esta ceremonia.    

At the beginning of this prayer service, I knocked on the door of the cathedral and was welcomed inside. He tocado las puertas de la catedral y al entrar he recibido la bienvenida. This is a venerable tradition that symbolized my entering for the first time the place where the cathedra, the bishop’s seat, is located. It also implies, however, that each of you is to feel free, in a sense, to knock and to be welcome every time you come to this holy place to pray and to have God listen to your prayer. Que consolador es tocar y experimentar la bienvenida de Dios y la bienvenida de la comunidad, Su Pueblo.

As I entered the cathedral, I kissed the cross of Jesus. Con humildad  he bezado el Crucifijo. The crucifix reminds us of the great love that the Lord has for us — that he was willing to lay down his life for us.  My friends, this evening I tell you that I, too, love you very much, and like the Good Shepherd, I am willing to lay down my life for you.

At the beginning of this solemn vesper service, I also lit the paschal candle, Cristo, luz del mundo, symbolizing the light of Christ in the darkness of the world.  It is Jesus who is at the heart of our mission and ministry; it is the risen Lord who can dispel the darkness in our lives. Jesucristo, el Senor, es la luz del mundo!

And now we pray before the Blessed Sacrament. As you know, the Eucharist is both the sign and source of our unity, and it is also the foundation of our charity, Jesucristo realmente presente en la Eucaristia es fuente de unidad y fundamento de la caridad.  In a recent message Pope Benedict says that the Eucharist is “an inexhaustible source of communion for the whole of humanity. . . In fact the exercise of charity, especially for the poor and the weakest, is the criterion that proves the authenticity of the Eucharistic celebration.”  (Message for the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 27 Sept. 2010).

This evening, we also extend a welcome to all people of good will to join us in praying to the one God from whom all blessings flow. Bienvenidos todos a trabajar por la unidad en Dios, siendo justos en el ministerio de la caridad. We want to be good neighbors! Queremos ser buenos vecinos, Buenos projimos!.  There is so much mindless hatred and violence in our society. There is so much wanton killing and violation of human rights. In a divided world and nation, the challenge is to find what unites us, to identify common ground, to discover creative ways of consulting and collaborating with one another, working for the common good of all our people. There is a great need today for people willing to work tirelessly for justice and peace. You can count on me to pursue these goals with you. Procuremos a toda costa el bien comun y practiquemos la Buena voluntad,  !Cuénten conmigo!

I entrust myself and the Archdiocese of San Antonio to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, la Morenita, la madre, la Guadalupana. La fiel discipula de Jesus. Faithful disciple of Christ, she brought two nations together as one during the time of Juan Diego and has brought together many people of diverse backgrounds since then. Patroness of the Americas, dear Mother Madre querida, increase the unity among us. 

This evening, I make St. Paul’s prayer, which we have just heard proclaimed, my own as my first prayer for you as your new archbishop. You undoubtedly want to know who I am, what kind of bishop I am, what the future of our local church will be. Ustedes quieren saber quien soy, que clase de Obispo sere, cual sera el future de nuestra Iglesia local. Well, that will become clearer as we get to know one another in the days and months and years that lie before us. This evening I simply want to share with you — briefly — my deepest faith and prayer and love for you.  

Also, I wish to address in a special way the priests who serve in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, for you are my principal collaborators. Ustedes sacerdotes son mis principales colaboradores en el ministerio. I invite you to join me in making St. Paul’s prayer for the Church of Ephesus our prayer for the church we serve here in Texas.  I also ask you to recommit yourselves this evening to the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments, and the work of social justice. Hagamos nuestro el compromiso  de vivir intensamente la Buena Nueva de la Palabra, de celebrar con dignidad los sacramentos y de trabajar arduamente en el campo de la justicia social para la Gloria de Dios, y asi el bien de Su Pueblo. Cuento con ustedes! Jesucristo, cuenta con ustedes!

Volvamos nuestra Mirada confiada al Padre de quien viene toda parternidad, quien nos quiere ver como hermanos, como familia. Our prayer this evening calls upon God our Father, whose fatherhood is the model of all family life, both among the saints in heaven and the Church here on earth. We gather as God’s family this evening in communion with all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the faith everywhere through the centuries and millennia — in communion with all who profess their faith in the risen Lord Jesus throughout the world today — and in communion with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI. Espiritu Santo, Senor y Dador de vida es el que hace la unidad desde lo mas intimo. It is the Holy Spirit who also is the bond that draws us together – old and young, female and male, old-timers and newcomers, lifelong Texans and this newest Texan archbishop! One of my responsibilities — one I especially share with our priests — is to build up and preserve the unity of this local church. Working together, we can effectively carry on the mission and ministry of the risen Lord which has been entrusted to us. 

The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, St. Paul tells us, has another dimension: that Christ will live in our hearts through faith and that this will be evident in our love for God and for one another. El Espiritu Santo se manifiesta a traves de la fe y se ratifica su presencia en el amor que nos tenemos unos a otros. Love is at the heart of the Good News. Love is the gospel we proclaim. But we must live that love, not merely pronounce it correctly. And we are to love as Jesus loved — without limit, without exception, being willing to lay down our lives for one another.

My dear sisters and brothers, from the first moment when I first learned that the Holy Father was appointing me the archbishop of San Antonio, I immediately felt, in faith, a deep affection for you. Desde el principio que escuhe la nueva mision encomendada con espiritu de fe los ame! I look forward to demonstrating this love to you in my actions as your pastor in the days to come. Habra oportunidades para mostrarles el amor de Dios en mi amor personal.

St. Paul’s prayer is bold and full of vision, and that is why I chose it for our reflection this evening.  The Apostle tells us that the Holy Trinity — Padre, Hijo, y Espíritu Santo — want to dwell in our midst. They do so in the Word of God, in the sacraments, in us as a holy people (even though we are always in need of healing and spiritual renewal).  But when God — who is love — dwells within us and among us, we are filled with the very fullness of God! The very fullness of God!  That is my prayer for us as your Shepherd — that we experience the very fullness of God! Nothing is more important. Nothing else ultimately matters.

Our heavenly Father is all powerful and cares infinitely about each of us.  Nuestro Padre celestial es todopoderoso y cuida a cada uno y a todos con infinito amor. But he is not a distant Father who sits on a faraway throne removed from our daily lives. He is right here present among us this evening, drawing us together with his bonds of love, inviting us to enter more fully into his presence.

St. Paul prays that the Church of Ephesus — and we pray that the Church of San Antonio — will be strengthened by the inner life of the Holy Spirit. Mi oracion es que experimentemos el amor de Dios en plenitud. No hay nada mas importante en la vida.

When we begin to experience the very height and breadth and depth of God and God’s love — then his “power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine! (Eph 3:21)”  Su amor es Eterno!

“Glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.  Amen!”  (Eph 3:21)


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