Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Zechariah 2:14-17; Luke 1:39-47)

When Mary visits Elizabeth in today’s gospel, she is doing more than helping an elderly relative with an unexpected pregnancy.  She is bringing Elizabeth the ultimate blessing of the Christ-child in her womb.  The baby within Elizabeth’s own womb recognizes the significance of the visit as he leaps for joy.  Elizabeth herself acknowledges the graciousness of Christ’s presence when she tells Mary, “’…how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’”

Today we celebrate a similar visit of Mary.  She comes not to an elderly woman of a town in the hill country of Judea but to a humble Indian on a hillside outside the city of Mexico.  The two visits are parallel, however, because the central figure is the Christ-child in the Virgin mother’s womb.  Looking at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we notice that at its center is her child-bearing womb.  Mary comes to bless the beginning of something new that is taking place in Mexico.

What is this innovation?  For a long time it was considered the salvation of the indigenous people of Mexico with their acceptance of Christianity.  As important as that development is, the event augurs something even greater.  Noting the Virgin’s message to Juan Diego, we can determine what she is introducing.  First, she tells him, “I am your mother.”  She is that, but something more – much more. To say what she is, let us look at her face.  It is not the face of an Indian but of a mestizo – a mixed breed.  The Virgin of Guadalupe is the mother not just of the indigenous but of the Europeans as well.  Indeed, she is the mother of all people who come to the new land of opportunity which is the Americas.

Then she tells Juan Diego to go to the bishop of Mexico City with instructions to build a church on the site where she stands.  In the indigenous culture of Mexico a church is more than a religious building.  Rather, because religion played the central role in the life of the people, a temple or church is seen as the foundation of society.  The construction of a new temple in a place where there is none means the foundation of a new society. The church which the Virgin requests will have a very specific purpose.  As she tells Juan Diego, it will be where she will make manifest Christ, her Son, who shows the love of God for the world.  Here is the key to the new creation.  Mary is calling for a new civilization of love to replace the old ones of domination.  The civilization of love is to supplant not just the cruelty of the Aztec empire but also the barbarity with which the Europeans are treating the conquered peoples.

As Mary is a young laywoman who brings Christ to Elizabeth and her son John, she asks another layperson to intercede on her behalf before the bishop of Mexico City.  Today the Church similarly asks lay people everywhere to take up this role of evangelizing.  The New Evangelization is a call especially to men and women in the world to announce Christ’s love for all.  They do it first by showing loving care for others, especially the poor.  They should not refrain, however, to testify in words to God’s care that they have experienced in their lives.  They need to tell the world that God has this same love for all.