Second Wednesday of Advent

Our Lady of Guadelupe

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I guess the word for this week is humility.  Yesterday we heard those famous words of the blessed virgin, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Today we remember Saint Juan Diego, the first native-born North American to be canonized.   The Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego for the first time on December 9, 1531, just thirty-nine years after Columbus discovered America; just ten years after the Spanish had conquered Mexico.  It would be eighty-nine years before the Pilgrims would land at Plymouth Rock.

It’s a familiar story.  The Virgin sent Juan Diego to the Bishop three times asking that a church be built at Tepeyac, near the town that we now call Mexico City.  The Bishop demanded a sign and Mary gave Juan a bunch of out-of-season roses which he placed in his cape.  When he opened the cape for the Bishop, the roses fell out leaving behind an image of the Virgin.

To put this story into perspective, imagine if an American Indian, maybe a Navajo or Cherokee, had been chosen by Mary to deliver a message.  How would the colonists have reacted?  Remember that the Spanish didn’t treat the Mexican Indians any better than the British colonists treated our Indians.  But in the Spanish culture, evangelization and conquest were one and the same.

Imagine the courage it must have taken for this native American to approach the Spanish Bishop with a message from Jesus’ mother.  He’s lucky he wasn’t killed.

This humble man’s efforts to deliver his message to the Church and to his fellow natives led to the conversion of nine million Aztecs in just six years.  Mary’s appearance had another result.  Spanish church leaders, recognizing that Mary had appeared to a native began to follow her example, treating the locals with more respect and understanding.

Listen to Juan Diego’s words:

“My dear lady…this I beg you, entrust your mission to one of the important persons who is well known, respected, and esteemed so that they may believe him.  You know that I am a nobody, a nothing, a coward, a pile of old sticks….You have sent me to walk in places where I do not belong.  Forgive me and please do not be angry with me, my Lady and Mistress.”

How much of Juan Diego is you and me?  Think about it.

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