(This column is adapted from the archbishop’s homily for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, delivered in Spanish at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles Dec. 12.)
As we hear in our readings tonight, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Ark of the New Covenant, the Daughter of Zion. She comes in flashes of lightning, in thunder, all of creation trembling before the great Queen of Heaven, crowned with stars, the Lord of Hosts dwelling within her womb.
We are children of this great Queen, all of us!
We are made to live in paradise. But as it was with Adam and Eve, our first parents, sin gets in the way.
This is the human story. It is the story of humanity and the story of every one of us. There is nobody here tonight who does not have sin or weakness. All of us fall short of the glory, the holiness that God wants from us.
But almighty God in his mercy prepared a remedy for us. The Virgin was in his mind from all eternity. She is given to us as the Immaculate One “full of grace,” born to bring us our Savior, the Holy One who will set us free from the chains of sin.
Tonight, as I was reflecting again on the beautiful “Nican Mophua,” which tells of her coming to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac, I was thinking about her humility, her tender love for even the least of us, her children.
She was the Queen of Heaven and yet she bends down to show herself to a humble Indian, a poor man of the people. Not to the bishops, not to the nobility.
And I was thinking tonight about her first words to Juan Diego: “Listen, my dearest and youngest son … where are you going?”
Our Lady’s question is also for us. Where are we going with all our fears and uncertainties, with all our miseries and responsibilities? Do we know that our Holy Mother goes with us, that we are always and forever precious and protected in her eyes?
And she gives us our mission, just as she gave Juan Diego his. It is a humble mission, but it is noble because it comes from Our Lady!
It is the mission that we hear tonight in the Gospel, the story of the Visitation.
Mary brings Jesus to Elizabeth. This is always Mary’s work: to carry Jesus into the world, to make his presence known among us. It is a quiet presence, often a hidden presence. God comes to us in silence and humility. If we look for him in dramatic signs and wonders, we will miss him.
Jesus comes always in the humble power of quiet love. Just as he enters Elizabeth’s house with Mary. Elizabeth was filled with joy when Mary entered the room. She was filled with joy because Jesus was there.
And Mary is asking us to do what she does. She is asking us to bring Jesus into every corner of our lives!
She is asking us to bring his love into our homes, to make Our Lord present in our conversations, in the way we care for one another. She is asking us to carry Jesus into our schools, into the places where we work, into our society.
You bring Jesus into your life, I bring Jesus into mine. If we all do this, the world will be filled with the love of Jesus!
We need to carry out her precious will for us, even when the road is painful.
Juan Diego was an ordinary man with many burdens and responsibilities. He was taking care of his uncle Bernardino, who, as we know, was sick and dying. Many of you are caring for loved ones who are ill. We balance so many duties in our families.
Juan Diego had his faith challenged: people calling him a liar, treating him badly, casting him out and telling him that what he believed was not real.
This is a reality for us, too. We live every day in a society that denies the truth of our religion. We are every day breathing an atmosphere of secularism that tells us that God does not matter, that God is not alive.
We face the same challenges that Juan Diego faced. All of us. But tonight, we can stand strong because we know the promise of the Virgin. She will reward us for our labors, for serving her. Just as she did with Juan Diego.
Keep her words always in your heart: “Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and gaze? Are you not sheltered underneath my mantle, under the embrace of my arms?”
Our Lady is sending us tonight, just as she sent Juan Diego. She is sending us with beautiful flowers in our arms, to carry her beloved image with us, to spread the beautiful fragrance of her love in the world.