Our Lady of Guadalupe
12 December 2017
Today on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we remember that Mary appeared to an indigenous Mexican man, Juan Diego by name, on a hill then outside Mexico City in December 1531.
Juan Diego is thought to be one of the first native Americans to be baptised by a group of Franciscan missionaries who arrived in Mexico in 1524. Mary appeared to him early one morning as he was walking to the Franciscan mission house for prayer and instruction. She gave him the task of convincing the bishop that a basilica was to be built in her honour as a place of pilgrimage for those seeking answers to prayer. The bishop was sceptical at first, but came to accept the authenticity of the apparition when, at Mary’s request, Juan Diego brought him flowers he had picked from a rocky spot where flowers never grew, and certainly not at that time of year. Juan Diego carried the flowers in his cloak, and having delivered the miraculous flowers to the bishop, found that the cloak was now imprinted with an amazing image of the virgin herself.
It’s a story brimming with deep faith and miraculous encounter.
I wonder what it was like for Juan Diego, a simple man who possessed a deep love for Jesus and His mother, to encounter Mary the way he did. It reminds me of an amazing supernatural encounter another person with a faithful heart had, many centuries before. Mary herself, a young Jewish girl from the town of Nazareth in Lower Galilee, who was living out a simple, devout life when the archangel Gabriel appeared out of nowhere, right in front of her, declaring, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
God is drawn to simple, open hearts. He has a particular concern for the little ones. Indeed, from God’s perspective, we are all little ones. The problems start when we begin to think of ourselves as big, sophisticated, powerful, clever and in control. Even then, when we have wandered off track and find ourselves mired in mess of our own making, the Shepherd comes searching for us.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’
Our Lady of Guadalupe, protector of the little ones, pray for us today.