December 9, 2018
Sr. Phyllis Jaszkowiak
This weekend we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary appears in 1531 to Juan Diego a poor peasant, oppressed by the conquerors, and is told to go tell the Bishop to build a church here in this place.
First Juan Diego has to find his voice and be ready to stand firm in what Mary asked of him and that it was not an illusion or dreaming. Second, Juan has to convince the Bishop of what the Bishop should do. Mary helps out by putting her image on Juan’s cloak. The image we see is an image of an indigenous, pregnant woman, and a woman who is strong, kind, loving and encouraging to Juan and all the poor of this world, to stand up, speak truthfully of their experiences, and not be afraid.
Mary has appeared to poor, oppressed, powerless people at different times in history, to let them know they are loved and valued. They are worthy people and they bring a message of peace, justice and healing to their and our world. She has appeared at least 200 or more times in different places and at different times. She always brings a message of hope, love, peace, justice and healing. She appeared at LaVang in Vietnam, at Knock in Ireland, in Rwanda in Africa, and in lots of other places, all during times of great suffering of the people due to war, famine, hatred or genocide.
When Mary appeared at Lourdes, France, in 1858, to a poor peasant girl, she brought God’s healing love to everyone. Those who go to Lourdes all say they are healed in some way, physically, emotionally, spiritually. They leave rejuvenated by the healing they received. Mary is saying that health care is for everyone, poor and rich alike.
When Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, to poor children, she brought a message of peace to our world. She asked us to pray for peace and to work for peace and justice in a world torn apart by the 1st World War.
Our Lady of Guadalupe dressed, not in aristocratic European clothes, but in the clothes of the conquered and the poor, brings a message that native people are full human beings worthy of respect, equality, compassion and love. Mary is saying that we are all equal and we are all connected to one another. There is no division because of race, nationality, culture, gender or wealth, we are all one. We are all different and we are all one.
When Mary visited Elizabeth, she went to help Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy and also to talk to someone of spiritual depth about her recent experience of the visitation of the Angel Gabriel. Mary knows what it means to be poor, powerless and voiceless. She also knows that through other’s encouragement people find their voice and the power to speak of God’s love and care for all of us.
If Mary appeared to us today, what might her message be? Maybe she would ask us to work for a more humane immigration policy, one that treats people respectfully and not as enemies. Maybe she would ask us to rid our nation of guns, violence and hatred of each other. Maybe she would ask us to learn from diversity rather than despise it. Maybe she would ask us to respect all different cultures while respecting our own. Maybe she would ask us to continue to work to open our Church to all the voices – lay, women, men, children, clergy – so as to change the clerical and hierarchical structures, and become more open to God’s word and action.
In our first reading God says, “See, I am coming to dwell among you.. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord… and they shall be God’s people and God will dwell among you.” St. Paul encourages us, “and this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value.”
I think this is what Our Lady of Guadalupe asks of us today, that we become more prayerful, more discerning, more loving, less violent and more peaceful. That we stop – take time to pray, alone and with others. That we look to see what the signs of the times tell us. That we listen to the messages God sends us through Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, friends, children, immigrants, cultures, races, genders, so we can hear God’s voice, and respond, in love, in our world, in our time, in our place.
Mary comes to help us – stop, look, listen – for that is what she did each time she appeared. As Elizabeth told Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” May we, then, like Mary, stop, look, listen, and believe that what is spoken to us by God will be fulfilled.