“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Rev. 12:1
Years ago, while living in Lansing, Michigan, I was involved at Cristo Rey Community Center, working with their summer migrant program and helping at their soup kitchen. It was there that I was introduced to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Each December 12th I would wake up before the dawn to attend “Las Mañanitas,” a morning service honoring Our Lady.
“If it’s not inconvenient, it doesn’t count,” my friend, Rev. Richard Preston, used to say about the early hour. The celebration included a lot of off-key singing as Fr. Preston would start the hymn in one key and the congregation, comprised largely of older women, would take off in another key, following their unofficial song leader. The service was followed, as always, with food, breakfast served with Mexican hot chocolate.
I think about those services every year when Dec. 12 comes around. Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in the hearts of Mexican American Catholics. The story tells of how Mary appeared to a poor Aztec Indian, Juan Diego, giving him roses in December and a picture of herself in Diego’s cloak as proof of her existence. The picture incorporates aspects of traditional Aztec Indian symbolism thereby linking two cultures and providing a Christian symbol that the Mexican Indians could embrace. Eight million converted to Christianity in the eight years following this appearance. Recognizing the significance of this vision of Mary, in 1945, Pope Pius XII named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas.
But this story is more than a story for Mexican Americans. It’s a story for all people about how God will not be limited to one culture and one way of being. God is a God for all nations and all cultures. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is a mother for all people, regardless of race or status. Mary is present to the poor mestizo in Mexico and to people everywhere. It is a great reminder to us today that God is neither white, nor black, nor Hispanic or Asian, but encompasses all nations.
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.” Zech. 2:14-15
When Mary chose to show herself to Juan Diego, she used a form to which he could relate. When God chose to manifest himself to the world, he was born in human form. How does God manifest his presence in your life today?
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