Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I find the story of these apparitions the most humble and down to earth. The narration says that, on December 9, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican peasant called Juan Diego on the mountain of Tepeyac while he was on his way to church. She appeared to him four times and once to his sick uncle. These apparitions took place in a time of oppression for the Indians. They were being rejected by the conquerors of that time. All of their beliefs of the ancient gods had been destroyed and Christianity was imposed.
Mary appeared very simply and with the traits of a native Mexican of the time. She even spoke to him in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec empire. It presents Mary in her true identity, a servant and close to those suffering and in need. The way she spoke to him was sweet, kind, and consoling. She would say, “Little Juan, the smallest of my sons….” Juan also replied to her with the same confidence. She identified herself as the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the true God. She gave Juan Diego a mission to tell the bishop to build a church where she can show her love, compassion, assistance, and protection to the people of that country and to all that would invoke and trust in her.
Juan Diego had a sick uncle who was close to death. He was on his way to get a priest when the Virgin Mary stopped him again and reminded Juan Diego of his mission. She said, “Don’t worry about your uncle. Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” At that time, she also appeared to his uncle and healed him. Juan Diego asked the Virgin Mary for a sign to take to the bishop. She told him to cut roses from the Tepeyac and take them to him. It was not the season for roses but Juan Diego obeyed and found roses as she had said. When he went to the bishop and opened his cloak, the image of Our Lady had been miraculously engraved on it.
The apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe are prophetic, mystical, and missionary. Prophetic because they announce a new culture, the culture of encounter. A poor Indian who is sent out to the hierarchy of the church, a bishop, to tell him that he saw the Virgin Mary. It is not about what divides us, but of what brings us together. Mystical because it reveals to us a God that is clearly with and for the poor and the oppressed. We can be blind and not see him where he truly wants to manifest himself. Missionary because it took Juan Diego and it takes us out of ourselves to carry out a mission in the way God wants it. Mary teaches us to trust in her and, ultimately, in God.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us and those who are poor and oppressed.
Written by Sister Migdalia Flores, D.C.