Catholics should be open to God’s call while remembering that Christianity can be countercultural and “unsettling” for the modern world, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said at his installation Mass in San Antonio, Texas.
More than 1,800 people attended the Nov. 23 Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Church, where the former auxiliary bishop of Chicago was installed as the sixth Archbishop of San Antonio.
At the Mass, papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi read an apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI confirming his appointment. He also presented the 53-year-old archbishop with a crosier which had belonged to Archbishop Jerome Droassaerts, Archbishop of San Antonio from 1918 to 1940.
“Today marks a new beginning in the wonderful history of the Catholic faith in this local church of San Antonio,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in his homily.
He recalled the early Franciscans who evangelized the region, including Venerable Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus and Fr. Miguel Calvo. He also voiced “special gratitude” to his two predecessors, Archbishops Patrick Flores and Jose Gomez, while also noting the diverse non-Hispanic Catholic immigrants who have come to the city throughout its history.
“In short, we thank God that, for nearly 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church in Texas has continued faithfully to proclaim the Good News here. We also rejoice that a personal and deeply pious Catholic religiosity has matured here, including the beautiful devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Mother, la Morenita.”
He then expounded upon the readings for the Mass, the first of which was the story of God’s calling of Samuel.
“God always speaks first. That is the way it should be. Creation is to listen attentively and respond appropriately,” the archbishop explained. Because Samuel was open to God’s call, “something new began in the history of salvation.”
Archbishop Garcia-Siller connected this to his own response to hearing that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to appoint him to San Antonio.
“I immediately felt real peace and joy tempered by a deep awareness of the great responsibility I had been asked to embrace. I felt, in faith, a deep affection for you, the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio,” he said.
The second Mass reading, about the apostles and the first day of Pentecost, showed the disciples experiencing “something very wonderful” that they needed to share with the whole world.
“No one is excluded from their proclamation that Jesus is Lord, that God loves all people, that all of us are sisters and brothers, beloved children of the one God, for God alone is able to feed the deepest hungers of the human heart,” the archbishop explained.
The fact that some bystanders thought the apostles were simply intoxicated with wine reminds Christians that their message is “countercultural” and can be “profoundly unsettling and even threatening to some,” he said.
“Ignorance, fear, and insecurity feed racism and hatred toward the stranger. The worldly pursuit of possessions, pleasure, and power militate against the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience,” he lamented. “We live in a deeply divided nation and region where the notion of brotherly love may seem quaint and naïve.”
Rather than withdraw into ourselves and seek only our own personal good or “defiantly” stake out our own position while ignoring common ground with others, the archbishop urged reflection on the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“My friends, it is the Holy Spirit that enables the community of faith to proclaim the gospel, to attract a crowd, to have something to say worth hearing. The wind blows where it will. God has the power to accomplish in our midst what he wants – in spite of all obstacles.”
This is possible only when Christians are open to God’s word and are in a loving relationship with Jesus.
“We are to love God fully, holding nothing back. And to love one another as Jesus has loved us – continuously, without limits, throughout our life,” he exhorted. “My brothers and sisters, I do love you, and I am willing to lay down my life for you!”
He urged those assembled to be “Spirit-filled and Spirit-led missionaries of the gospel in the world.” Entrusting his mission and ministry to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession, he concluded:
“May the quality of our love for one another bring out to everyone that we are truly the Lord’s disciples and missionaries!”
He closed with the phrase “Viva Cristo Rey!”, the last words of the martyred Mexican priest Bl. Miguel Pro, whose feast day coincided with the installation Mass.
The San Antonio archdiocese reports that installation Mass attendees included Archbishop Garcia-Siller’s 76-year-old father, Gustavo Garcia Suarez, and his 75-year-old mother, Maria Cristina Siller de Garcia. Many siblings and relatives of new archbishop, the eldest of 15 children, also attended.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the apostolic nuncio to Mexico concelebrated the installation Mass with several other Texas bishops.