Memorial of Saint Juan Diego Cuauahatlatoatzin
(Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14)
The indigenous people of Mexico had long experienced war and persecution. Their defeat at the hands of the Spanish was one more in a line of humiliations. In a definite sense they were a lost race when an extraordinary event took place. The Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous convert Juan Diego Cuauahtlatoatzin on a mountain outside the city of Mexico. She sent him to the Spanish bishop in the city with the petition to build a shrine at the place of her appearance. At first the bishop resisted the request, but Juan Diego returned with a cloak full of roses improbably found on the mountain in December. When the flowers were allowed to fall to the ground revealing the image of the Virgin with indigenous features, the bishop could not help but build the church. Not long afterwards the people accepted the faith in droves. They had a new attitude toward life – proud of their racial lineage and committed to the Lord for their new-found religion. Both readings today echo this story.
In the reading from Isaiah el Segundo the prophet urges calling out from a high mountain that God comes to relieve the sufferings of the people. In the gospel Jesus reveals that the time has arrived. God is here to rescue the lost sheep. Just as the indigenous of Mexico experienced new life by accepting faith in Christ, all people experience deliverance from sin and death in the work of the same Jesus Christ.
Just as surely as the attitude of the people changed with the Virgin’s appearance, we live with an altered disposition. Our faith in Jesus assures us that fullness of life does not consist in pleasures, acquisitions, and accomplishments, but in loving service to him. Performing such service, we are taken into his arms safe for all eternity.