Gospel Reflections

Feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego

Luke 1:39-45

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Nancy Wellmeier

Published: December 12, 2017

Read Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Read More…


 

In Arizona, where I live, there is a Guadalupe Avenue, a town called Guadalupe, and most Catholic parishes celebrate a novena, a procession, a dawn Mass with  mariachi music, and an abundance of roses.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored all year by the Latino population here, but the outpouring of devotion peaks on December 12.  It is in the midst of this fervor that I reflect on what meaning this feast could have for all of us.

The apparition of Mary in 1531 was notable for several reasons.  Although there were traditions of appearances of the Virgin earlier--in the first century to St. James (Our Lady of the Pillar); in 1214 to St. Dominic (Our Lady of the Rosary); and 1291 (Our Lady of Loreto), the Mexican event was the first outside of Europe, and significantly, only ten years after the conquest of Mexico by Spain.  Mary appeared as pregnant, clothed  in  Mexica (Aztec) dress  traditionally worn by mothers-to-be.  And she spoke Nahuatl, the language of her messenger, Juan Diego.  I marvel at this fact, which I see as evidence that God's love for each one of us, mediated through Mary in this event, is personal, attentive and respectful of each individual's culture.

Juan Diego's experience of the conquest, including the  imposition of a new religion and cosmology, and of discrimination by the Spaniards did not stop him from seeking to learn more about the faith of these new people.  He was on his way to his doctrina--his catechism class, when Mary called to him and sent him to the bishop with her request for a chapel on the hilltop where, until then, the Mexica prayed to the mother-goddess, Tonantzin.  This chapel was to be a place where comfort, healing and consolation could be found.  Surely it was not the Spaniards who need comfort and consolation, but the native population, whose world had been turned upside down. 

Mary, in today's Gospel, rose and set out quickly to greet Elizabeth, who was honored by her visit.  So Mary greeted Juan Diego, who expressed how honored and unworthy he was.  The words joy and exultation appear in both the first reading from Zechariah and the Gospel in today's liturgy.  That is surely what Mary came to say--the poor and forgotten, the exploited and confused will find joy and be comforted and consoled.  They will soon exult in the privilege that heaven granted them--the first visit of God's mother to their land, a God who accords to all people their dignity, and speaks in their language.

What is my experience of attempting to meet someone of another culture with respect  and understanding?

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