December 4, 2012 // Uncategorized

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the New Evangelization

A woman lays her hand on a traveling missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a visit by the replica to St. Louis Church in Pittsford, N.Y. Oct. 28. The digital image is a reproduction of the image left on the tilma of San Juan Diego in present-day Mexico City in 1531. (photo by Mike Crupi)

Next Wednesday, December 12th, is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This feast recalls the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico from December 9 to 12, 1531 to the native convert, Juan Diego. We rejoice that the Mother of God appeared on our continent, inspiring the great evangelization of millions of people.

The event at Tepeyac occurred just twelve years after the conquest of the Aztec Indians by Hernando Cortez and the Spanish conquistadors. The Indian peoples were devastated by the conquest. Many believed that their existence as a people had come to an end. In the midst of their suffering, the Mother of God came to them. She appeared to Juan Diego and spoke to him in his native tongue. She appeared as a beautiful Indian woman, enveloped by the rays of the sun and standing on the moon, with stars adorning her mantle.

With great tenderness and a mother’s love, Mary brought hope and comfort to Juan Diego, and through him, to all the suffering Indian people. She revealed to them that God is a God of love, mercy, and compassion. She also revealed to them their God-given dignity as a people. Her appearances to Juan Diego marked a turning point in the history of America, the true beginning of the evangelization of America.

The Guadalupe event continues to have great meaning for us today. In the midst of life’s difficulties, in times of sadness, sorrow, disappointments, and even desperation, we know that, through Mary, we can experience the loving, healing, and saving power of God. In the midst of great darkness, Juan Diego and the Aztec people experienced the light of God’s grace and new life through Our Lady of Guadalupe. She gave them new hope and strength to continue forward.

The Mother of God illuminated the darkness of Juan Diego during the darkest night of his soul, transforming his agony into the joy of new life. Mary’s presence in our lives does the same. We experience the tenderness, kindness, and compassion of God through Our Lady, Our Mother, who assists us with her presence and her prayers. She visited her cousin Elizabeth to help her in her old age after Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist. She visited Juan Diego to help him and his people. She visits us to help us in our life’s journey. One of the great titles of Our Lady is “Our Mother of Perpetual Help.” As a loving mother, she always seeks to help her children in need.

In this Year of Faith and this age of the new evangelization, it is good for us to look to Mary. The Bishops of Mexico have pointed out that “the Guadalupe event meant the beginning of evangelization with a vitality that surpassed all expectations. Christ’s message, through his Mother, took up the central elements of the indigenous culture, purified them and gave them the definitive sense of salvation.”

Pope Benedict XVI said the following: “The Virgin Mary, who did not communicate to the world an idea but Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is an unparalleled model of evangelization.” She helps to make us all aware that we are called to be missionaries, to be witnesses to the faith in our everyday lives. She precedes us on the path to holiness. She helps us to teach the truth proclaimed by her Son and to spread the love which is the first and greatest commandment and the first fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Mary entered deeply into the hearts of the people of Mexico and all America when she appeared to Juan Diego. Many of our homes, especially those of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, have the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the first image I see when I get up every morning in my bedroom. When I look upon the tenderness of Mary’s face, I recall her words to Saint Juan Diego: Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? What a great way to begin the day, knowing that the Blessed Mother is with us!

Also on a personal level, I have special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego since I was ordained a bishop on the feast of Saint Juan Diego, December 9th, 2004. The Old Testament book of Sirach states that “God is glorified by the humble.” Juan Diego, like the Virgin Mary herself, was one of the humble through whom God was glorified. They are examples for us of the virtue of humility. They teach us that humble faith expressed in the Beatitude of Jesus: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the midst of the season of Advent. We prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas. Saint Paul wrote to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…” The Son of God came into the world at Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel.” The Son conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary entered the world! It is indeed significant that the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared as a pregnant woman.

The main message we proclaim in all our efforts for the new evangelization is that God has entered human history. He has called us to share in his divine life. The Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary to obtain this divine adoption for us. He came to redeem us from sin and to make us his children. We are now heirs to eternal life.

We are called in the new evangelization to proclaim the saving message of Christ with new vigor and energy. We must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death. We proclaim life with dignity for all! We must proclaim the sanctity of marriage and the family, ensuring that our children are raised in the Church’s faith and in love of the Gospel. We must always be evangelized and converted anew ourselves if we are to be authentic missionaries in our society today. Advent is a time to be renewed in our faith, purified of our sins, and spiritually prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

In union with Mary, our mission is to proclaim and witness with courage and joy to the hope of humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Star of Evangelization, intercede for us! May she help us to become more holy, disciples in love with her Son, directing our lives completely to God!

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