Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Most Mexican communities throughout the world will hold great celebrations today to honor the miracle story of this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Processions, Masses, and family fairs will happen because this is one of the most important feasts of their native country. No doubt, there will be much singing and rejoicing which will bring to life the words of our first reading from Zechariah: “Sing and rejoice. I am coming to dwell among you. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord, and they shall be his people.”
It all started with the simple faith of a peasant Indian named Juan Diego who trusted and said “yes” to God. His quiet obedience changed the course of history and ushered in the awesome power of God.
In December of 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan on a hill near present day Mexico City and asked him to give a message to the local bishop. She wanted the bishop to build a chapel where she would hear the cries of the people and help their many sorrows, needs and misfortunes.
Juan was a recent convert, so he quickly went to the Bishop, but the bishop didn’t take him seriously. He went back a second time and this time the bishop asked him for a sign. Juan brought him 2 signs: roses which normally don’t grow in December, and a beautiful image of Mary which had been miraculously imprinted on his cloak.
Because Juan said “yes” to Mary, the church she asked for was built. He lived beside the church for the rest of his life, telling visitors his story and showing them the cloak. Juan brought the presence of Christ to his people. It is estimated that 9 million Indians gave up their superstitious beliefs and were converted to Christ.
In our gospel, we hear of Mary’s simple faith, her courageous response, and how these changed the course of salvation history. She, too, trusted and said yes to God. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." By her profound ‘yes’, she brought the presence of Christ to all people.
Both these events happened centuries ago, but they speak to us today. Like Mary and Juan Diego, we can’t tell what might happen when we say “yes”. Sometimes an opportunity, or a task, or an invitation is presented to us and our first impulse is to say “not me”. It’s then we should pray for openness and for willingness to be that humble instrument of Christ’s presence to others.