Zechariah (2:14-17) is one of the optional first readings for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, a native Aztec man heard a voice calling from and hill. When Juan Diego climbed the hill, he saw a young Aztec woman in native costume whom he immediately recognized as the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary spoke to him in his native language. The bishop, originally dubious, finally understood after Juan’s uncle was cured and when Juan showed him roses he has gathered from the hill in the dead of winter. When Juan opened his garment to show the roses to the bishop, they saw an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe imprinted on it. Juan Diego was canonized in 2002.
Like all Marian apparitions, this one is not without its critics. Whether it is fact, a mixture of fact and fiction, or legend does not really matter. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance brought many non Christian natives of Mexico to Christianity. We cannot blame them for not converting previously at the tips of the swords of the Conquistadors who exploited, oppressed and enslaved them.
This event occurred during a time when the church had wandered far from nonviolence. The church had embraced violence first in order to defend the empire from barbarian invaders. Ambrose and Augustine developed the just war theory to put moral boundaries on warfare. As the doctrine evolved, it became acceptable to use violent means to convert heretics and non Christians as evidenced by the Inquisition and Crusades. The “evangelization” of the Europeans in the Americas is another violent chapter in the history of the church. The natives were enslaved to work in fields and mines. They were considered to be less than human. Thus, they could be put to death for their pagan practices.
Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican priest, formerly a slave holder, recognized the barbarity of what the Conquistadors were doing in the name of religion. He tried to chart a new course.
Unfortunately, for our brothers and sisters in Latin and South America, the oppression continues to this day. Unfair fair trade agreements and unjust immigration laws are marginalizing them and creating human misery.
Violence has not served the church well. Amid the rigors of Spanish occupation, the native people of Mexico suffered. Our Lady of Guadalupe gave them hope, and, as legend has it, promised to alleviate their misery and suffering.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is now the patroness of the Americas. Legend or not, widespread devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe clearly shows that people who are marginalized and oppressed look to Mary. She is a sign of God’s presence to God’s people. For many people who feel they cannot relate to Jesus the Christ because of a traditional overemphasis on his divinity, Our Lady of Guadalupe is someone they can relate to. Read the words of Zechariah:
“Shout aloud and rejoice, people of Zion! I am coming. I will make my dwelling among you,” says YHWH God. Many nations will give their allegiance to YHWH on that day and become God’s people, and God will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that YHWH Omnipotent sent me to you. YHWH will claim Judah as God’s own portion in the holy land and will once again choose Jerusalem. Silence, all mortal flesh! Be silent in the presence of YHWH, who has been bestirred once again and come forth from the holy dwelling place. (2:14-17, The Inclusive Bible)
God has once again come forth from the holy dwelling place. God is coming among us. God is present to God’s people. God has stirred forth from God’s dwelling and has sent Mary as a messenger of hope for Juan Diego and for us.
The account of the Annunciation from Luke tells us that “all things are possible with God.” A young maiden shall conceive and bear a son and her very elderly cousin will bring forth her firstborn. Nothing is impossible with God!
Knowing that nothing is impossible with God is the foundation of Mary’s, “Let it be done to me as you have said.” It is the foundation of our daily fiats to God. We place our trust and hope in God present among us and within us. We know that all is well and all will be well because God is with us and with all other peoples. The inclusive God of Nonviolence is bringing the peace and justice promised to the Israelites, the Jesus Movement, and to the Aztec nation. All are invited and all are welcome at the banquet table of God. “Come and see.” “Taste the goodness of God.” “Silence, all mortal flesh!” Ponder the presence of God among us. God is with us! Blessed be Our Lady of Guadalupe. Praised be God.