Feliz dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe! Happy Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Today our church – especially our brothers and sisters in Mexico, the native peoples of Latin America, many of our Hispanic brothers and sisters throughout our country, and so many others – celebrate our Blessed Mother Mary as Patroness of the Americas under this beautiful title and beautiful image.

The image is said to have appeared miraculously on the cloak of Blessed Juan Diego in 1531 as proof to his doubting bishop that the Blessed Mother had appeared to him over the course of several days. The Blessed Mother instructed Juan to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill to collect roses at the time of year when the hill was barren – the miraculous “Roses of December” as they are called.

Bringing the roses to the bishop in his cloak, the image appeared when he lowered his cloak before the bishop. The image is now venerated by hundreds of thousands as it hangs in the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

The presence of the Blessed Mother to Juan Diego echoes her presence in the Scripture readings for today, which remind us of Mary’s role as “first disciple,” always bringing to the Church the Good News of her Son.

In the first reading from the Book of Revelation, the “woman clothed with the sun” has been interpreted since the earliest days of the church, as a reference to Blessed Mary. It is a reminder, especially in this text – speaking to a church under great stress and challenge – that the community need not fear, because God has already defeated those with evil plans, and that our salvation, like the woman’s in the story, is assured.

As in this reading, so in the story of Juan Diego, our Blessed Mother brings forth Christ, and offers his message of peace and comfort, even when the world seems upside-down. What an important message for us to receive in our hearts today in the midst of so much suffering and pain in our nation and world!

Also, in the story of Guadalupe, it took time for both Juan Diego and his bishop to understand all that was happening. They needed to be reminded by Mary that the promises of God are always at work in amazing ways.

And in today’s Gospel we hear the Annunciation – the promise of God to Mary that she will bear Christ. We remember in this season of Advent waiting that for Mary, the season of waiting was 9 months as she carried Christ in her womb until that first Christmas!

And here we are 2 full weeks into Advent – almost halfway to Christmas – and also 9 months since our lives have been so radically altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Today it seems Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds us to consider prayerfully how we have changed and grown over these months as Christians? How have we been conscious of the new life of God’s Spirit stirring in the womb of our hearts? And if we find that we haven’t been as attentive or responsive to that Spirit as we might be, maybe the Virgin of Guadalupe encourages us simply now:

Comencemos ahora! Let’s start now.

And now in honor of this wonderful feast, my colleague here at the USCCB, Marilyn Santos, will offer a reflection in Spanish ….