One of the greatest festive traditions in my native country, Mexico, is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, just a few days before Christmas. Ever since I was a little girl, I use to listen to the Guadalupe Event narrated in the "Nican Mopohua", which means in Nahual "Here it is told" and how in 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego (now Saint Juan Diego), on the hill of Tepeyac, when he was searching for the things of God. I liked to hear that it was to a poor indigenous man who belonged to the suffering conquered people of Mexico, to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. This Queen of the Heavens made Juan Diego her very trustworthy messenger; Juan Diego, a marginalized indigenous, who regarded himself as "nothing":
“I beg you, my Lady, Queen, my Beloved Maiden, to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, (have him) carry, take your dear breath, your dear word, so that he will be believed. Because I am really (just) a man from the country,… a man of no importance: I myself need to be led, carried on someone's back, that place you are sending me to is a place where I'm not used to going to or spending any time in…” Nican Moponua
But it was him and only him, whom Our Lady sent to carry out his message and in doing so, She helped him to recover his worth and dignity:
"Listen, my youngest-and-dearest son, know for sure that I have no lack of servants, of messengers, to whom I can give the task of carrying my breath, my word, so that they carry out my will. But it is very necessary that you personally go and plead, that my wish, my will, become a reality, be carried out through your intercession.” Nican Mopohua
In his encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego is transformed, is validated, in his culture, in his identity, in his being and dignity as a son of God. He now sees things differently: the cactus look like emeralds and precious stones, and the thorns seem as gold. Just like when we lived our first Retreat or Encounter with Jesus and our problems were transformed, they no longer seemed so big because God gave us hope, and because we know that we do not walk alone, God walks with us.
There is a song called “Encounters” by Fr. Ricardo de Alba, Missionary of the Holy Spirit, the lyrics say: "Some encounters fill our life with a light and hope, and others that leave our heart empty"; certainly this meeting of Juan Diego and Our Lady was an encounter that generated Light and Hope for Juan Diego and for all the conquered people who lived under the conqueror’s oppression. Mary was the gate that gave access and allowed the encounter between the True God and a whole nation that awaited. As the Scripture says:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2).
At Christmas, Mary brings back the Light, Hope, and Joy, especially to the poor and oppressed, the homeless.
Each year around these days there are many who live in depression, in sadness, perhaps because they are far from home or because their loved ones are no longer with them; others, perhaps are overwhelmed by the economic situation, and they forget the greatest gift we already have among us; the gift Mary brings it to us, "a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" ... These two events, December 12 and December 24 , are, in my opinion, an invitation from God so that like Mary, we may be the door or access other need to encounter Him who is the Light, Hope, Joy, and Solidarity. Let us prepare our hearts that God may find a welcoming place where he can rest and give himself thru us to others, especially those who despair, are oppressed, or live in sadness. May Advent help us prepare for this great mission: "TO BE GATES OF ACCESS TO THE LIGHT AND THE HOPE". Are you prepared?
Pictured above: Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit Sister Maria Guadalupe Malvais, MGSps vigils with other sisters at a Giving Voice sponsored witness along the U.S./Mexico border in support of immigrants.