VATICAN CITY — The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which mirrored that of the indigenous people of the time, is a sign of Mary's closeness to those who are marginalized, Pope Francis said.
Like St. Juan Diego, who felt like he was of no importance at being chosen by Mary because of his indigenous heritage, marginalized people in today's world are often made to feel worthless by conditions imposed upon them, the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"Among them are the indigenous and Afro-American communities, who often are not treated with dignity and equality of conditions; many women who are excluded because of their sex, race, or socioeconomic situation; young people who receive a poor education and have no opportunities to advance in their studies or to enter into the labor market so as to move ahead and establish a family; many poor people, unemployed, migrants, displaced, landless peasants, who seek to survive on the informal market; boys and girls subjected to child prostitution, often linked to sex tourism," he said, quoting a 2007 Latin American bishops' council document he helped write.
Processing into the basilica, Pope Francis made his way to a replica of St. Juan Diego's tilma, which bears the image of Mary, who appeared to the indigenous saint in 1531. The pope stood before the image, bowing reverently and censing it three times.
In the homily, Pope Francis reflected on the reading from St. Luke's Gospel, in which the angel appears to Mary, informing her that she is with child.
"And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God," the angel said. Elizabeth's sterility, the pope said, was considered at the time "a divine punishment for her or her husband's sin" and a sign of shame and guilt "for a sin she did not commit ... (she was) made to feel small for being unable to fulfill what was expected of her."
However, in Elizabeth — who was the first to recognize the child in Mary's womb — Christians can find a woman who is "fruitful and amazed" upon experiencing in her life "the fulfillment of a promise made by God."
"In her, we understand that God's dream is not nor will be sterile or to stigmatize or fill His children with shame, but rather bring forth through and from them a song of blessing," he said. This fruitfulness can also be seen in St. Juan Diego, who was chosen by Mary to bear on his "tilma the image of the Virgin."
Mary, shown "with dark-skin and mestizo appearance," reflected a "mother capable of taking on the traits of her children to make them feel a part of her blessing," the pope said. He called on Christians to look to Mary and learn from her, to become a Church with a "mestizo appearance, an indigenous appearance" that takes the form of the little ones. It is "the appearance of a person who is poor, unemployed, of a boy or girl, old or young, so that no one may feel sterile and infertile, so that no one feels ashamed or worthless," the pope said.
Catholics urged to lay all fears, hopes 'at feet' of Virgin of Guadalupe
LOS ANGELES — The words Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to St. Juan Diego when she appeared to him in 1531 on Tepeyac Hill are the words "she speaks to us," said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.
He quoted those words in a homily: "Do not let your heart be disturbed. Do not fear. ... Am I, your mother, not here? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my arms? What more do you need?"
"My brothers and sisters, our mother is speaking these words to the Church today. And to each one of us," Archbishop Gomez said in the homily for midnight Mass at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The liturgy began at midnight Dec. 11 and went into the early hours of Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"Tonight," he continued, "Our Lady is speaking these words to all of you who are worried about your immigration status and the changes in our country."
"She is speaking these tender words of assurance especially to the 'Dreamers,'" he said, referring to young people protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which will end in March unless Congress passes the proposed DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and others in the country without documents.
The Mass followed an annual "serenata," or musical tribute, to Mary that began at 11 p.m. Dec. 11. It is a traditional serenade to the Virgin of Guadalupe — "Las Mananitas" — to honor her for her feast day.
"Las Mananitas" came a few hours after a celebration of indigenous dancers on the Cathedral Plaza and the veneration of the relic of the "tilma" of St. Juan Diego, on which the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531. The cathedral is home to the only relic of the tilma outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
"My brothers and sisters, tonight we lay our fears and hopes at the feet of the Virgin. We ask for the grace to contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes," Archbishop Gomez said in the homily. He also asked for prayers for all affected by the wildfires in Southern California.
He called on all in the congregation to lay their fears and hopes "at the feet of the Virgin" that night. "We ask for the grace to contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes," Archbishop Gomez said. "We know that she is our protector, our advocate."
In the second reading for the Mass, from the Book of Revelation, "we see Mary defending her child, defending the Church against the devil," he said.
"This is her role. She wraps us in her mantle, in the beautiful 'tilma,'" the archbishop said. "And she guides us, all the days of our lives, like a mother, to the throne of God."
— Catholic News Service