One of the miracles of Christmas is that God chose a simple, faithful Jewish girl to bear the Son. Her yes allowed us to experience God as fully human. God arrived as a baby and our lives have never been the same. Mary continues today to say yes and to transform lives. Today we honour Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1531. I have loved this story since I first heard it and know that Mary, with the Trinity, wants to topple all our hierarchies and misconceptions about God.
Mary appeared to St. Juan who had little formal education, was poor, and was a convert. He is one of the least likely in some eyes to encounter the Holy. How often do we judge people and say they cannot be worthy of such blessing? As the number of missing and murdered women in this country grows, how many of us really care about this atrocity? How can we ignore this crisis? Are we like the bishop that dismisses Juan as a fraud, as an annoyance, as a deceiver? What do we need from our God before we recognize that the ways of the Holy Ones are not our ways?
Like the bishop, we need proof for our skeptical hearts sometimes. Mary does not disappoint. St. Juan is as baffled and amazed as the bishop. He picks flowers in December to show the bishop but imprinted on his poor cloak is a stunning image of the beautiful woman he has encountered for all to see. This image, pictured above, shows Mary as never seen before–as an aboriginal woman and she has also appeared to Juan’s dying uncle to say that she is to be called Santa Maria, de Guadalupe. The humble covering bearing her image remains in tact to this date five hundred years later and millions of pilgrims flock to see it.
Mary and I have not always shared a deep bond but at some point in my adult life, I encountered her as a real woman who was a model of faith, courage, and discipleship. Stories such as this one show me she has a heart for the poor. She sides with the least of these. She is patient with everyone–the ones trying to do the will of God and the cynical ones in need of a miracle. Mary provides something for everyone as a loving mother and a woman who understands suffering. She is both in need of comfort and a comforting force in our hurting world. She extends mercy to all, forgiving hardened hearts and reaching out to the least of us. She spoke these words to St. Juan:
Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.
May we too know her abundant mercy.
What is your relationship to Mary?
How does Mary shape your understanding of mercy?
Santa Maria, de Guadalupe,
hear our weeping, see our sorrow
heal our sufferings and misfortunes.
Show us how to be merciful to those
in need of a loving Mother.
Turn our world upside down
and wrestle our preconceived ideas
of who is worthy out of our hands
so that empty-handed, we can welcome
everyone with a loving hug.