Saturday, December 12, 2015

Guadalupe: Mary Loves Us, and She Can Change History

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

This is the great secret of the universe: we have a beautiful Mother who bears us in God's grace through this life and "gives birth" to us in the glory of God's kingdom.

She is not a goddess. She is a creature, a human person who said yes to God and brought God Incarnate--the Word made flesh--into the world; she is a human being who says yes to us and wants to bring Christ to each of us.

And she is not shy. She loves us with all the power of a woman's love: she is intelligent, practical, persistent, and downright spunky when necessary. And all of this with a woman's love, a mother's love, that brings peace. The story of Guadalupe makes this clear. Really, it is clear in the New Testament, if we take the trouble to dwell on the woman who appears there and the great heart that is manifest in her every gesture.

Mary sought out Saint Juan Diego on this marvelous December morning in the year 1531 and gave him the great gift of this image of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet. In the image she carries Jesus in her womb (as the black ribbon indicates), ready to give Him to others. And Mary entrusted this simple man Juan Diego with the charge of bringing this mysterious gift to those around him, to the bishop of Mexico, to the peoples of this land, to the whole world.

This is the story of how Mary loves each one of us. It's the story of how she takes care of us, and even how she outwits us when we try to run away. It's the story of how she invests us with the courage to share Jesus, to participate in her maternal mission to bring the hidden Jesus to birth in the hearts of others.

And it's a story that really happened in history. You can go to a real place, a physical place, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and you can see with your own physical eyes this astonishing icon. Science cannot explain anything about it. Science cannot explain how it was made or how it endures.

Millions of pilgrims over the past 484 years will tell you that it is a miraculous image that communicates the personal presence of our merciful mother Mary, and Jesus her Son. They will tell you that it's a privileged place of encounter with Jesus and Mary.

Next year, Pope Francis will go to Mexico City because, as he says, "Our Lady is there." His predecessor Pope Saint John Paul II visited Mexico and the Basilica five times during his pontificate, where he would spend whole nights in prayer with Mary.

Miracles really do happen in history. Go to Guadalupe as a pilgrim and see for yourself. Or just know in your heart that she is there, that she is keeping her promise to offer all her love, to offer Jesus, to those who cry out to her and accept her as their mother.

The miracle of Guadalupe strengthens and deepens my certainty that Mary is a real person who really exists and who really loves me. There is this woman, a real woman, who knows me and is totally determined to crush the evils that threaten me, to draw me away from my self-love and free me from all my worries, and to give me Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus is our Redeemer, and nobody knows that better than Mary. That’s why no one can bring Him close to us like Mary. Doesn’t it make sense that, at the heart of the plan of salvation, there is a woman, a real woman, who is not just a passive vessel, but whose active, vital, feminine, maternal love really makes a difference in our lives?

Mary is that woman. She has found me in so many places in my life, but especially at Guadalupe. I have no excuse to doubt her tenderness or the goodness and mercy of God.

I know that if we give space for Mary to love us, we can be confident that Jesus will change us.

We are pilgrims on a journey to eternal life, but Mary--like a good mother--cares for every aspect and detail of our lives. She is not afraid to get involved with the historical lives of persons, cultures, nations, and whole peoples. We are all her children, and two thousand years of Christian tradition testify again and again to Mary's presence, protection, and help in our greatest spiritual and temporal trials. Mary is not afraid to change the course of history. The icon of Guadalupe changed the history of the Western hemisphere, and continues to bring change even in the midst of much tumult and violence in this part of the world.

Also in our time, Mary has promised conversion and a period of peace for the human race. Let us open our hearts to Jesus in the ways that she has requested, and then bring all our anxieties and troubles and weaknesses and fears to her, our good mother.

This is the beautiful way to become children again and thus inherit the Kingdom of God. It is also our greatest hope for peace in this world.