December 12, 2019
Our Lady of Guadalupe—USA Feast
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28b
Today, in Mexico, the United States and across the Americas, we honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.
On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian convert to the faith, was walking to a nearby village so that he could attend Mass. On his way, a woman appeared to him amidst the sound of celestial music. She announced to him:
I am your merciful Mother, to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Therefore, go to the dwelling of the Bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire.
Though Juan Diego did not accomplish this at first, he eventually followed the instruction of the Virgin of Guadalupe in subsequent apparitions and brought fresh roses from the mountain top to the bishop as a sign that the Virgin wanted a shrine built there. Roses did not usually grow that time of year so this was clearly a miraculous sign. Upon arriving at the bishop’s residence, Juan Diego opened his cloak (tilma) carrying the roses so as to pour them out onto the floor before the bishop. When he did so, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared, miraculously, upon the threads of this cloak. The cloak is still visible to all who wish to see it at the shrine in Mexico City. And what is amazing, scientifically speaking, is that the image is not painted, rather, each and every thread has changed color so as to create this holy image. Furthermore, the cloak is made of a cactus plant that normally disintegrates within ten years. Today, the cloak is almost five hundred years old and it is as fresh and vibrant as ever.
Though the miraculous nature of the tilma of Juan Diego is fascinating to ponder, what is of far greater significance is the message of our Blessed Mother as she appeared to Juan. ”I am your merciful Mother…” she said. She is our Mother when we trust her and invoke her help.
The Feast of Our Lady, therefore, ought not simply be seen as a cultural, historical or miraculous phenomena. Rather, it must be seen as a glorious invitation from the Queen of Heaven to accept her as our mother.
Reflect, today, upon your own relationship with our Heavenly Mother. Do you trust in her intercession and help? Do you know that Jesus has entrusted you to her care? Have you consecrated your life to her protection? One of the best ways to honor our Blessed Mother is to pray the rosary. Pray it today, at least a decade. And as you do, ask her to gently guide you to her Son, Jesus.
Dearest Mother, Virgin of Guadalupe, I consecrate myself to your motherly care. I thank you for your perfect concern, help and mercy. Please intercede for me as I place my trust in you. Take me to Your Son Jesus that I may love Him with your beautiful heart. Mother Mary, pray for us. St. Juan Diego, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Daily Reading & Meditation
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 41:13-20
13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” 14 Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you, says the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I will make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; 16 You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. 17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together; 20 that men may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Meditation: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God? Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest person born. Who can top that as a compliment? But in the same breath Jesus says that the least in the kingdom of God is even greater than John! That sounds like a contradiction, right? Unless you understand that what Jesus was about to accomplish for our sake would supersede all that the prophets had done and foreseen.
“Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel”
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the forsaken and dispersed people of Israel some 700 years before the birth of Christ that “your Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel” would come to restore his people and to make all things new (Isaiah 41:14ff). When the Messiah and Redeemer of Israel did appear John the Baptist announced his arrival. He fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets – to be fingers pointing to Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed Son and Messiah. John proclaimed Jesus’ mission at the Jordan River when he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). John saw from a distance what Jesus would accomplish through his death on the cross – our redemption from bondage to sin and death and our adoption as sons and daughters of God and citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
The spirit of Elijah is sent in advance through John’s words
John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who point the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He is the herald who prepares the way for Jesus the Messiah. Jesus confirms that John has fulfilled the promise that Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). Jesus declares that John is nothing less that the great herald whose privilege it was to announce the coming of the Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel.
Jesus equates the coming of the kingdom of heaven with violence (Matthew 11:12). John himself suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded. Since John’s martyrdom to the present times the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent men. The blood of the martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to this fact. The martyrs witness to the truth – the truth and love of Jesus Christ who shed his blood to redeem us from slavery to sin and Satan and the fear of death. The Lord Jesus gives us the power of his Holy Spirit to overcome fear with faith, despair with hope, and every form of hatred, violence, jealousy, and prejudice with love and charity towards all – even those who seek to destroy and kill.
We proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Christ even in the midst of suffering and violence
God may call some of us to be martyrs for our faith in Jesus Christ. But for most of us our call is to be dry martyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the Gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord Jesus. What attracts others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. He will fill us with the power of his Holy Spirit and give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith. Are you eager to witness to the joy and freedom of the Gospel?
“Lord Jesus, by your cross you have redeemed the world. Fill me with joy and confidence and make me a bold witness of your saving truth that others may know the joy and freedom of the Gospel of your kingdom of peace and righteousness.”
Psalm 145:1, 9-13
1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
9 The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the sons of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Kingdom of Heaven, by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 AD)
“What violence (Matthew 11:12)? People did not believe in John the Baptist. The works of Christ were held to be of no importance. His torment on the cross was a stumbling block. ‘Until now’ prophecy has been dormant. But now the law is fulfilled. Every prediction is finished. The spirit of Elijah is sent in advance through John’s words. Christ is proclaimed to some and acknowledged by others. He is born for some and loved by others. The violent irony is that his own people rejected him, while strangers accepted him. His own people speak ill of him, while his enemies embrace him. The act of adoption offers an inheritance, while the family rejects it. Sons refuse to accept their father’s last will, while the slaves of the household receive it. This is what is meant by the phrase ‘the kingdom of heaven suffers violence’ (Matthew 11:12). Earlier expectations are being torn apart. The glory that was pledged to Israel by the patriarchs, which was announced by the prophets and which was offered by Christ, is now being seized and carried off by the Gentiles, through their faith.” (excerpt from the commentary ON MATTHEW 11.7)
|Both the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis tell us that the proclamation of our faith has to be inculturated, that our faith has to be transmitted in a form that resonates with the local culture. We are spontaneously in resonance with our own culture, but being in resonance with a different culture is not necessarily spontaneous. In-culturation requires on our side some degree of ex-culturation, a distancing of ourselves from the culture we are already familiar with, as my personal experience has taught me. Lack of ex-culturation leads to lack of in-culturation.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is clearly an inculturated image depicting an Aztec woman, not a Spanish or European woman. But the name Guadalupe is itself a glaring example of lack of inculturation on the side of the hierarchy in those colonial years. Let me explain. There exists in Midwest Spain a centuries old shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (my own mother’s name was Guadalupe) and that was all that Juan de Zumárraga, bishop of Mexico, knew. So, when he asked Juan Diego for the name of the Lady that had appeared to him and he heard in the Nauatl language the name Coatlaxopeuh (translated crushes the serpent and pronounced Quatlasupe), the non-exculturated bishop, who knew only of Spain’s Guadalupe, felt a need to “correct” Juan Diego: “you, ignoramus, it has to be Guadalupe”. And the non-inculturated name sank roots locally and beyond.
God writes straight with lines that to us may look crooked and, when today people hear the name Guadalupe, they think of that Aztec-looking Mary, not of the other less known shrine in the Extremadura region of Spain. This is the inculturated Guadalupe of Mexico and of the Tepeyac hill that we celebrate today as patroness not only of Mexico and Latin America, but in fact as patroness of the entire America, of the entire continent.
The Lord is in the midst of thee. Zeph. 3:15
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isa. 41:10
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Isa. 35:3, 4
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zeph. 3:17
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Psa. 27:14
I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. Rev. 21:3, 4
Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. Exo. 14:15
Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight. I Chron. 19:13
We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night. Neh. 4:9
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matt. 7:21
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. John 7:17
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD. Hos. 6:3
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. Matt. 26:41
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. I Cor. 16:13
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. Rom. 12:11
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready
the paths of your Only Begotten Son,
that through his coming
we may be found worthy to serve you
with minds made pure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. *
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain
The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
So often we are “afflicted and needy”
and we seem to “seek water in vain.”
Today we listen to a refreshing promise
of how much our Lord desires to refresh us.
Each of us can fill in what we need the most
I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”
Whoever has ears ought to hear.
Let us pray to God our Father who sent his Son to save
Show us your mercy, Lord.
Father most merciful, we confess our faith in your Christ
with our words,
– keep us from denying him in our actions.
You have sent your Son to rescue us,
– remove every sorrow from the face of the earth and
from our country.
Our land looks forward with delight to the approach of
– let it experience the fullness of your joy.
Through your mercy makes us live holy and chaste lives in
– eagerly awaiting the blessed hope and coming of Christ
Lord, like a loving parent,
you offer me your comforting hand
Help me to wait for your coming with patience
and to listen to what you ask of me.
I want so much to be one of “your people”
and to live my life in you.
Thank you for the way you bless my life.
Thank you for listening to my prayers
and for planting deep in my heart
the knowledge that with you,
nothing is impossible.
May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.