WOMAN OF THE POOR

Our Lady of Guadalupe    

            We are celebrating today the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Let me tell or re-tell the gist of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe…

            In 1531, an elderly Indian man named Juan Diego had a vision of Mary at Tepeyac, a poor and filthy Indian village outside of Mexico City. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish Bishop, somehow to mock him, instructed Juan Diego to ask for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.

            Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the Bishop. When the Indian opened his tilma to present the roses to the Bishop, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary – known now as Our Lady of Guadalupe. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

            Allow me to dwell on just one point about that vision story of Guadalupe. Mary’s message to the Bishop was that God’s church should be built right there on that squalid village – right there on the fringes of society. Ang simbahan ay dapat itayo sa gitna ng mahihirap, abang-aba at binabalewala ng lipunan. The vision challenged the powerful religious leaders, the Spaniards of Mexico City at that time, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to a situation where they should be in solidarity with the poor. It challenged them to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in that poor village because that is where God prefers to be – among the poor, the deprived, and the despised, far away from the center of power and influence.

            Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be and whom we should listen to should be a timely message for us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. We know that our God “hears the cries of the poor.” While it is true that God loves each and every one of us, there is a special place in God’s heart for the poor and the powerless. In that respect, Juan Diego’s message is a restatement of Jesus’ vision of God. Jesus talks about his work as bringing good news to the poor, release to captives and sight to those who do not see. In other words, the Guadalupe vision translates Jesus’ vision of God – a vision that must address our present situation.

            The challenge for us is not to lose our bearings in the midst of works, deadlines, busy schedules, and Christmas preparations. Rather let us hear the message of Guadalupe, the message of the Gospel, and do all that we can to see to it that God is brought out to the poor and the broken hearted in our communities. Let us go to the table of the Lord where the poor, the meek, the suffering, and the persecuted are particularly welcome, knowing that this is what God wants us to make of our world. Let us make an act of mercy to our suffering brothers and sisters every day. Let us be the face of God’s compassion to them. Let this be our Christmas gift to Mama Mary and to Jesus.

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