When she appeared to him, Juan Diego recognized the dark, Indian features that were so familiar to him. Our Lady of Guadalupe came to the humble peasant nearly 500 years ago, but she did not come as one of the conquerors -- the powerful Spaniards who sometimes treated the Indians with contempt. With her dark hair and brown skin, she was one of them - one of the poor.
The request she had of Juan Diego that day was daunting: would he go to the city and ask the Bishop to build a shrine on this spot? He agreed but knew it would be a humiliating experience. He was quickly dismissed by the Bishop. When the Lady asked Juan Diego to return, he begged her to send someone more important to the Bishop - "a person of mark that he may be believed." The miracles that followed gave Juan Diego credibility with the Bishop, who finally believed him.
We are all afraid when we are asked to do things beyond what we are certain we can do. Juan Diego's simple acceptance of the request led him to a humiliating encounter with the Bishop, but his faith led him to return. Luke's gospel offers us a look at Mary's own life, one of poverty and powerlessness. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, asking her to be the mother of the savior, "she was greatly troubled." Gabriel encouraged her, "Do not be afraid, Mary."
The difference between what God asked of Mary and what God asks of us is our response - Mary was willing to turn her life over completely to God. She said Yes. We tend to squirm, to hedge, fight for control and insist on doing it alone, on our own, without help from God. It is our independence from God, our rebellious streak that makes our lives more of a struggle. What would it take for us to put aside our own fears about how we will look and how well we might succeed and to take up the request Jesus has given us - to follow his example in caring for the poor, to love the unlovable and to invite the marginalized into our lives?
Mary, on this feast of Guadalupe, help me to remember how much I am poor and powerless. Help me to fall into the loving embrace of your son and to turn my life over to him. Let me open my eyes to those around me who need me and not be afraid to respond with my whole life. Come, Lord, Jesus, and fill my heart.
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