The story of Guadalupe is a story for our times.
Our Lady of Guadalupe came at a time of confusion and discord — and a time of immense cruelty and suffering, corruption, and infidelity.
In 1531, the Church on the European continent was confronting decadence and corruption and the need for renewal and reformation.
Many theologians and ordinary people could not even recognize the humanity of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the Old World, academics actually held scholarly debates about whether the natives were people with souls.
At the same time in the New World, a new global economy was beginning to be built on the basis of slavery and inequality. The greed and ambition of Spanish colonizers led to unspeakable horrors and the destruction of millions of lives and the ruin of native habitats and ways of life.
This is the world that the Virgin Mary came to visit.
Our Lady did not appear only for the Mexican people. Her mission was continental and universal.
She came as a mother, as the “new Eve,” the mother of all of the living. She told St. Juan Diego: “I am the ever-Virgin, holy Mary, Mother of the true God — the life-giving Creator of all peoples.”
When we look at the self-image that Our Lady of Guadalupe left imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma, we notice that she is a brown-skinned young woman, a “mestizo,” a mix of European and indigenous peoples. She is dressed in the garments of the indigenous peoples and she spoke to Juan Diego in his own indigenous language.
Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds us that the Church was established to be the vanguard of a new humanity. She reminds us that beyond the color of our skin or the countries where we come from, we are all brothers and sisters. We are — every one of us, without exception — children of one heavenly Father and we have the Mother of God as our mother.
She is, then, a profound icon of the unity of humanity and the Church’s mission to create one family of God out of all the world’s nations and races, peoples, and languages.
Holy Mary of Guadalupe appeared also as an icon of new life, as a woman carrying a child. A Child in whom we see the hope of humanity.
Today we are faced with many troubles, in the world and in the Church.
There are whole new forms of cruelty and inhumanity, racism, and slavery. There is selfishness and greed that leads to suffering on a global scale. There are whole categories of people — from the child in the womb to persons with disabilities, to ethnic and religious minorities — who are stripped of their dignity and rights by the powers that be in this world.
As in Juan Diego’s time, in the Church today we face new challenges to our fidelity to Jesus Christ, both personally and institutionally.
In this moment, Our Lady of Guadalupe comes to us, speaking words of compassion and consolation.
She spoke to St. Juan Diego: “Do not let your heart be disturbed. Do not fear. ... Am I, your Mother, not here? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my arms? What more do you need?”
We are not lost. We are not alone. Our Lady goes with us. She takes our hand, like a mother, and she guides us along the pathways that lead us to her Son. Always. In every generation. In every time and place.
This is the Virgin’s role. She keeps us sheltered underneath her mantle, in the embrace of her arms. We go always in her gaze.
The great St. Pope John Paul II called the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe “the Marian heart of America.” But more and more, I see that Guadalupe is about more than Mexico, more than America.
In leading the mission to the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe was showing us the vision of a way forward — to a new humanity, a new Church, a new world.
Authentic reform and renewal are always based on a return to the origins — to the purity of first beginnings. That is what distinguishes reform and renewal from revolution, which always seeks to destroy the old in order to build the new.
In this moment, I am more and more convinced that we need to “return to Guadalupe,” to the original vision, the original path that Christ wanted for us in this country and throughout our continent. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the messenger who is sent to lead us to renewal and reform in our time.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
In these troubling times, we need to go always forward with joy and confidence. May we lay our fears and hopes at the feet of the Virgin. And may we contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes.