Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I am aware today that 76 years ago my mother, Mary Nell Diver, married my Dad, Fred Steinmiller. They now are together in God their Creator for eternity! I can recount gratefully where they sacrificed over six decades so that I and my 7 siblings would grow to appreciate the good, the beautiful, and the truthful. (Is not that our destiny, to “have life and have it to the full?” John 10:10)
And the greatest gift that they would give each one of us children was their acting on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the affirmation of God’s will for us, that we would be baptized into the Holy Family of the Catholic faith. Let’s call baptism “a challenge to a New Way.” That is how the Christian life can be, a constant opportunity to level out those “impossible” resistances and obstacles, to fill in the deep gorges of corruption, disappointment and sin, and to make straight the crooked, deceptive road ways.
Advent is a time period of expectation. Of taking on a way of thinking that is actually that of the expectant, the pregnant mother. This God-induced expectation, this season of Advent, is all about the furthering of something new that will contribute to the good, the beautiful and the truthful. Can you think of a person, or human situation that is not in need of these life-giving qualities? Who are the recipients of these life-giving qualities? The person to whom you are married, those with whom you have the responsibility to raise into responsible Christian adults, the persons with whom you live in an intentional communal setting, the persons with whom you work or study, the neighborhood in which you live, and the “societal stranger/foreigner” whose path you cross daily.
In the words of the prophet Zechariah today, we read, “Many nations will bind themselves to the Lord on that day.” That is what happened, initially, to all of us in our baptisms in the Spirit and our subsequent embracing of God’s Will through pursuing actively our vocations, i.e., God’s personalized purpose and mission instilled in each one of us.
In Pope Francis’ letter, Rejoice and Be Glad, he is calling the whole church “to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.” What better time to think about growing in holiness than Advent, “the season of expectation.”
And Mary continues to show us how to “give birth to Jesus” through our presence and activities that promote newness in life. Why is she the model for us to follow”? The Angel Gabriel announced it: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Who does not want to be around anyone who shows us hope, enthusiasm, creativity, newness, perseverance, not to mention just plain love. These are attractive persons.
So where did Jesus get this sensitivity to people who were “lost, condemned, alienated and divided.” His Mother, the one who nurtured, nourished, sensitized, guided and accompanied him even to the horrible death on the cross as she stood beneath it.
And today, these lessons of giving birth to newness in the face of tragedy and hopeless ness we honor in Our Lady of Guadalupe. Into the region we call Mexico, known only to native peoples in their innocence, traditions and, yes, powerlessness, they would suffer the extreme consequences of greed through genocide, the destruction of a whole culture. In 1531 with the invasion of Spaniards with the insatiable thirst for wealth and gold, God would send the Mother of us all, and appearing to Saint Juan Diego and working through him, she would bring salvation through her intervention. Pope Paul VI would define salvation as the “free gift of God offered to all through the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, for the lifting of the burdens due to oppression and sin to a waiting world.”
Mary challenged all peoples of this land to become a new people as reflected in her “mestiza face,” the face that reflected the peoples of that region. In her face each would recognize elements of their own likeness, in diversity and unity.
One of the core messages of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, is this challenge to unity, to a newness where people of all backgrounds, colors, and ethnicities would live and work in mutual respect, peace, and harmony. Mary still challenges us today to create newness in every person and situation in which we find ourselves. I pray, “make me, like Mary, your mother, not only to listen, but also to put the Word into action.”
Thanks to Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, and Fr. David Knight, who inspired this meditation.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., is the administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama.