HOMILY FOR THE MASS IN HONOR OF
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
BISHOP RENE HENRY GRACIDA
O God, Father of Mercies,
who placed your people
under the singular protection
of your Son’s most holy Mother,
grant that all who invoke
the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe,
may seek with ever more lively faith
the progress of peoples in the ways
of justice and peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The above prayer, the opening prayer of today’s Mass in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe expresses the of her relationship to the people of the Americas: the promotion of a living faith in her Son, Jesus Christ, and as a consequence of living that faith rather than simply professing it producing a society that would be characterized by social justice and peace.
The apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the indigenous man, Juan Diego, was the miracle that is most prominent in the celebration of this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But I suggest that the greater miracle was the timing of that apparition in the history of Mexico.
A brief review of that history will explain my point. Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire on August 13, 1521. Not trusting secular clergy because the then system of parochial benefices Cortes asked the King of Spain to send Franciscans to evangelize the indigenous people. The king sent a group of Franciscans who landed in Mexico on December 6, 1528 just seven years after the conquest of the Aztec Empire. The head of the group of Franciscans was Friar Juan Zumarraga, who was appointed Bishop Mexico and Protector of Indigenous People.
[Bishop Zumarraga was sent in such a hurry that he did not have a chance to be consecrated a Bishop. Bishop Zumarraga returned to Spain in 1532 and was consecrated in Vallalodid and immediately returned to Mexico as Archbishop of Mexico.]
As was the custom in the Spanish colonies, the Spanish conquistadores and their mestizo offspring were granted encomiendos, that is the right to the labor of large numbers of the indigenous people.These indigenous people were technically not slaves, but they were in many cases forced to perform slave labor for the encomiendades.
This was the reality that Bishop Zumarraga was fighting in 1531 when Juan Diego appeared before him and told him of the apparition of the beautiful woman on Tepeyac hill. Bishop Zumarraga told Juan Diego to return to the hill and to ask the Lady for a sign he could bring to the Bishop. We all know what happened next,
Juan Diego return with his tilma filled with roses and Bishop Zumarraga ordered the construction of a shrine on the hill as Our Lady had requested.
Now, the really impressive miracle that I referred to at the beginning of this homily occurred. The indigenous people of Mexico flocked to the shrine and begged to be baptized. There was only the short space of seven years between the Conquest of the Aztec Empire by Cortes in 1521 and the arrival of Bishop Zumarraga in 1528. And there was the shorter space of three years between the arrival of Bishop Zumarraga and the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And there was the incredibly short space of five years between the Apparition and the report sent to the King of the baptizing of 5,000,000 indigeneous people in Mexico.
Never, in the history of the Church has the conversion of so many people taken place in such a brief period of time. That is the real miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Apparition, the roses in the tilma, those were just the means Our Lord and his Blessed Mother used to achieve such a great success of evangelization.
Such are the results of men cooperating with God’s grace. Sadly to say, the history of the Americas is checkered with every conceivable form of government ranging from successful democratic republics to tragic dictatorships of the right and of the left.
As we celebrate this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we need to pray that she will soften the hard hearts of those who oppress and exploit people and that she will emplore the Holy Spirit to harden the intellects of those who work for peace and justice so that they choose the right means that will lead people to Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Father.