Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the Patroness of the Americas. In December of 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to an Aztec Indian Man by the name of Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill outside of what is now known as Mexico City. This was a very significant event in the history of religion in Latin America because the Aztec culture and religion was centered on the gods, while the Conquistadors brought Catholicism; and there was a clash between the two for a number of years, eventually the Indian religions disappeared. Many Indian folks converted to Catholicism due to missionary presence in Latin America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, as an indigenous woman, asking that a church be built at that location. She told Juan Diego to go to his bishop to tell of this request, only his story to be believed after the fourth apparition. Castilian roses were on the hill which do not grow in that region, or in December for that matter. To prove that the Virgin had appeared again, he cut the roses and put them in his cloak to show the bishop. When Juan Diego addressed the bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in the cloak after the roses fell on the ground. The fifth and last apparition was to Juan Diego’s uncle who was ill. Juan Diego was worried about his uncle and the Virgin told him that his ill uncle who was on his deathbed would return to good health.
Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe show her wearing a dress with jasmine flowers and a mantle which has stars. These have reference to the Aztec culture and the Winter Solstice, as she appeared to Juan Diego as an indigenous woman. The impact on her apparition was huge because this was a turning point in which the people connected with Catholicism, instead of through the influence from the Europeans.
The tradition which happens on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Mexican people wake up very early and go to church, and they serenade Mary and pray. Boys dress up as Juan Diego. This tradition is referred to as Las Manañitas. It lasts for several hours. This Feast is a time for the Mexican people, and immigrants to connect with Mary from their own context.
First Reading: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”
Responsorial Psalm: Judith 13:18bcde, 19
- (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
In the Gospel we find Mary confused as to why she would be chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, but she recognized it was her calling from the Lord. She embraced what the Lord asked of her instead of refusing. Let’s use the saying, “You tell God your plans, and He laughs.” It is often very true because we have hopes and ambitions for ourselves, and what you desire does not always jive with what God desires for you, and sometimes it does jive. Although when your plans do not match God’s, it can be very hard to submit to His will. Yet it takes faith and trust in the Lord that He knows what is best.
I know a fellow who felt called to be a priest, and he entered seminary with the local diocese. Everything felt right during his first year of seminary, and then when he was home for vacation during the summer, he met a gal who he was very attracted to more than being friends. He knew he was in formation so did not act upon those feelings. He returned to seminary in the Fall, and through spiritual direction and prayer, he realized he had to leave formation. The fellow was very confused and torn because he felt called to the priesthood; or at least thought God called him. But he put trust in God because he knew he had to. When returning home, he started to really have a hard time comprehending what happened despite putting trust in God. The gal found out that he had left seminary, so took a shot at asking him out. They dated for some time, and finally got married. As much as leaving seminary was hard for the fellow, he his trust led him to his true calling in life; the calling to be a husband and a father. He is happier in those capacities more than when he was pursuing the priesthood.
When God presents you with something, or asks you to do something, are you going to say no because you have your own desires, or will you trust that God knows what is best? Are you going to accept the task, as Mary did? Are you going to be willing to change directions if God desires it, just as the fellow did? It is not easy to take such a leap of faith… But take that leap because good will come out of it.