I was realizing with someone this morning that we only have three more weeks in 2016. The 12th of December has already arrived on this year. It is a celebration we do every year. Javier - my contact with the mariachis (and how they have enriched our Mass, right?) - Javier texted me this morning that he was going to take a nap because he did not sleep last night because they played for so many celebrations of Guadalupe. We love this day. We do not get tired of singing the same songs every year, in fact they even miss us during the year.
But it is important to take into account that everything is not the same every year. The history of the virgin of Guadalupe has a different impact in each situation. If we do not take into account what is happening around us when we celebrate this date, we are losing the meaning of Guadalupe’s appearance. God intervenes in history at key moments. The Christmas story we always hear during this season begins with the words, "At that time, when Emperor Augustus ordered a census of the whole world, Cyrenius being governor of Syria." Luke was very detailed in his description of the historical moment in which Jesus appeared on earth. This was the first appearance of the Virgin Mary. It was a time when God's people were under the oppression of a foreign power. Many had grown accustomed to living under that oppression, and did not bother to get involved in the political life of their time. But Maria was not one of those. The poem she sang in her fourth month of pregnancy spoke in very political terms of the reality of her time, and what her son was going to do about it. He was going to invert the order of the world. The mighty would be humiliated and the poor would be raised. We cannot appreciate the importance of the Virgin without that reference.
What we are celebrating today in the appearance of the Virgin to Juan Diego in 1531 also responded to an important historical moment, 1,500 years after the appearance of the angel to Mary. It happened in the years after the conquest of America by Spain. The church had set itself up as an oppressive power, in a manner similar to the Romans of Mary's time. The bishop behaved more like a prince than a servant of Jesus. And that's what bothered God. That is why the virgin came to an indigenous man - Juan Diego, a member of the group that was being oppressed by the conquerors, which included the church. The virgin called on him to confront the bishop and to build a temple for her.
I lived in Mexico City for nine years, and visited the Basilica many times. It seems to be in the middle of the big city. There is a lot of traffic to get there, and all the streets are paved. But in the time of Juan Diego, Tepeyac was out of town, on the geographic and social margins of the power center. The virgin of Guadalupe chose that place to appear to Juan Diego.
What's happening in December, 2016? What frame of reference would Luke use for this time? I think it would be something like "In the year of Donald Trump's election to the presidency, when the first African-American president named Barack Obama was finishing his term, and a woman named Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote for the presidency." That reference would give warning to those who are awake to the events of this time that the appearance of the virgin and the presence of God have a strong message for our generation. He would probably make specific reference to Mexicans and Muslims and women, among other groups who need to hear that message.
What does the Virgin of Guadalupe call us to this year? I have to tell you that it is not to worship him. Many times Christians lose sight of the task to which Jesus calls us. At no time did Jesus say that we should worship him; But it is what we like to do most. He called us many times to follow him; to imitate his actions, and to walk in his footsteps. But he never told us to worship him. This may come as a surprise because it is what we have done most.
I think the call is the same with the virgin. He never called us to worship her. Yes we must respect her as the exemplary disciple that she is. But that respect is an invitation to take seriously what she said and what she did. In this year, we understand in new ways what it is to be hungry, to feel fear, to lack security, to imagine the worst. In the midst of this we have to hear the angel's voice say that for God there is nothing impossible, and to hear the voice of Mary say that Jesus is going to bring down the powerful from the throne, leave the rich empty, exalt the humble and fill the hungry with good things. He will give security to immigrants; he will love those of another religion; he will care for the most vulnerable, and bring Shalom into the world.
Let's present ourselves to Jesus, the Virgin and God and say, "Yes. I'm going to follow them. I will live with courage in the midst of my fears. And I will believe that the impossible is possible.