It is one of the corporal works of mercy and also an Advent tradition for the archbishop of San Antonio, the annual Advent liturgy with Bexar County Adult Detention Center inmates the week before Christmas.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, presided at the Mass Dec. 18 with the encouragement of Sheriff Javier Salazar, celebrating the season of Advent while looking toward Christmas joy. “We rejoice that God has made his home with us,” the archbishop began. “God is with us! This is truly good news.”
Speaking to the dozens of men in attendance, he explained that the Lord knows what it is to live a human life. “He knows what it is to lose those he loves. He knows what it is to be hungry and to be homeless. He knows what it is like to be a refugee. He knows what it is to be rejected by those who should have loved him. He knows what it is like to be on trial. He knows what it is like to be imprisoned. He knows what it is like to face death. Our Lord even knows what it is like to be killed,” the archbishop emphasized. “Jesus came to experience everything human, except for sin. We have a God who came to be completely united to us as he saved us.”
He told his listeners that none of us are perfect people, but sinners worshipping God with fellow sinners. “Even though you are incarcerated, we still gather to celebrate the closeness of our Lord. Take the time to picture our Lord in his prison cell, awaiting the judgment of Pilate. Take the time to picture our Lord being mocked and hated by people who should have loved him and shown him care and concern,” the San Antonio prelate stressed. “This is our God who went through these things for us because he loves us. This is how much our God is with us. He wants you to know that he understands the difficulty of being in this place because he went through it himself.”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit discussed how Advent is not just about getting ready to celebrate the mystery of Jesus coming into this world but is also a time to prepare a way for him in hearts and lives. “My brothers, I know that you spend a lot of time here thinking about your lives, about your mistakes and sins. I know that you do more soul searching than many people outside of this place. So, this is a special time for all of you,” he acknowledged. “We must follow our Lord and ‘do what is just and right in the land.’ Recommit yourself this Advent to people who prepare their hearts to follow the Lord in holiness and purity. He came to us as a small and innocent child, to remind us how we ought to be as well — holy and pure.”
Last Christmas, Pope Francis stated, “Christmas is a day of great joy, but is primarily a religious event for which spiritual preparation is needed… In this Advent season, let us be guided by the exhortation of John the Baptist: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’… Be converted every day, one step forward every day.”
Archbishop Gustavo closed by offering words of comfort to those behind bars, saying the archdiocese has them in prayer during this time of preparation and will be praying for them and thinking of them on Christmas Day when celebrating Lord’s birth. He asked that they pray for us as well. “May we be in solidarity with each other. And may we be united by the love of our Blessed Mother who bore Jesus into this world,” he concluded. “We ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to be with us, and hold us together in the love of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.”
Following the Mass, the attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to the archbishop, who was celebrating his birthday later in the week.