Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mary of Guadalupe

Feast:  December 12th


The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful feast appropriately celebrated during Advent.  Just as the message of Guadalupe was a message of light piercing through the darkness, so is the message of Advent that of Light dawning upon mankind.  The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is beautiful in that it once again shows us the tenderness of Mary as mother, appearing to a humble native named Juan Diego on the hills of Tepeyac, to offer consolation and hope to a world wrapped in ignorance and darkness.  She appeared heavy with child, anticipating the beautiful event we are to celebrate Christmas night, when the Child to be born of her comes to save His people.

Mary's tenderness and gentleness in Tepeyac drew the humble Juan Diego to the top of the hills to learn more about this beautiful sight of the "Heavenly Lady" before him.  What humility the Mother of God had when she decided to appear to him as one of them, a native just like himself, only more beautiful than he had ever seen.  When asked who she was, she replied by saying, "I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live.  It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me."  Mary is the Mother of the Church.  She brings the message to the Church, works through the Church,  and does not bring anything to fruition without the Church.  Just as on Pentecost, a small band of uneducated, frightened men, huddled together to await the  coming of the Holy Spirit, so were the people of Tepeyac waiting for this hour when the light of God will come.  And Mary was there to bring it about.  In their ignorance they did not know it.  They were content with darkness: the darkness of pagan idols, human sacrifices, poverty, sin.  But grace pierced through the darkness of their world.
It seems that the Mother of God is drawn to people who are most humble and act with no pretense.  Juan Diego was set to meet Our Lady one day at the top of the hill when he was confronted by a choice he had to make.  His uncle was ill and he had to find a priest to hear his confession.  But the Lady was waiting for him.  What was he to do? He decided to go around the hill and passed on the other side to avoid being detained by the heavenly Lady.  Mary came out to meet him and reassured him:  "Listen and understand, my humblest son.  There is nothing to frighten and distress you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you.  Is it not I, your Mother, who is here?  Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle's illness distress you."  How many times we long to hear those words in moments of trials and distress, when we feel sad and lonely?  Many times I recall these words of Mary and they give me comfort and joy.
Our Mother left us a token of this love and consolation: her image imprinted in the beautiful "tilma" or cloak still venerated today in Mexico City.  I have heard it said that in all of Mary's apparitions, she had been portrayed according to the accounts of her witnesses.  But in Guadalupe, she left us an image created by herself with her own brush.  The most interesting thing is that a thorough study of the image shows an image of a man reflected in one of the pupils of her eye.  Experts claim it was that of Juan Diego.  You can't get more personal and intimate than that.

What is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe?  There are many.  She is the Patroness of Life.  She brought life and light to a world of sin and darkness.  She is the bearer of life, pregnant with the Word made Flesh. She reiterated that she will always and forever be our Mother, whether we know her or not.  Just like a true mother, she searches for her children and takes the initiative to bring about what is good for them.  She is forever the "ever Virgin Mary", both Virgin and Mother, thus confirming the teaching of the Church from the beginning of salvation history.

Just on the side, I am happy to reflect on the grace of knowing that my father was born on Our Lady of Guadalupe's  feast, December 12th, and my mother- a day after Our Lady's Assumption, August 16th, and I was born on the feast of Our Lady of the Snows (dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)!  I am forever grateful for this grace of Providence.
May our most beautiful and gentle Mother, be our comfort always and our joy, our treasure and source of strength.  May we always look for her at the top of our own "hill at Tepeyac" and recognize her as "our true mother... Are we not under her protection?  A mother who is always there..."









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