Feast of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
My Little One
An inappropriate response can be embarrassing as well as
opening a door to serious trouble. The Spanish conquistadors came to the Aztec
people of the New World with the sword and the cross. Enslavement would follow,
disease decimated the native population, an ‘old world’ was destroyed. While
the sword was mighty, the cross did not bring a people to conversion. The
message of God’s love was not in evidence among a crushed people.
Diego was 55 when Mary appeared to him on his way to Mass. She called him her
‘little one, Juanito’. She asked of him what Francis of Assisi heard in his
prayer, ‘build my church’. For Francis it would be rebuilding, for Juan that he
bear the message to the bishop that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill, the
sight where the mother goddess of the Aztecs was worshiped. Mary would appear
again to Juan as he hurried to summon the priest to the bedside of his dying
uncle. The uncle would be cured immediately, and Juan was directed by Mary to
go to the bishop with her request to build the church. Juan asked for a sign,
this was what the bishop had asked him to secure from the beautiful woman who
had appeared to him. Mary told him to go gather roses and carry them to the
bishop as a sign from her. The mantle of Juan overflowed with roses when he
stood before the bishop. Beautiful flowers that should not have been found in
December. But even more startling was the image of Mary imprinted on Juan’s
mantle that had surrounded the flowers. If the bishop did not recognize the
symbolism it would proclaim a profound message to the native people. Mary was
dressed in the colors of Aztec gods, the black band around her waist showed
that she was pregnant. Everything in her revelation to
Diego spoke of a new mother for these people. She knew the old, but she brought
with a mother’s love something new for them. In the church to be built they
would come to know the love of God though her son Jesus. It was only with the
appearance of Mary that the hearts of the native people were won to come to her
son. To this day the affectionate love of Mary conveyed in her words to Juanito
is felt by the people of Mexico and beyond.
calls for an appropriate response to the Ten Commandments, the pledge of the
covenant. God’s gifts of abundance and countless descendants will follow. But
Matthew shows us a picture of inappropriate response. As the children playing
in the square are not following the invitation of the music in their game, so
the invitation of John and Jesus have fallen on deaf ears. John is dismissed as
being mad; Jesus as a lover of sinners.
Christian message that accompanied the conquistadors was not warmly embraced.
That rejection seems appropriate. But God’s creative love appealed to the Aztec
people in a miraculous way that won their hearts. On this Advent day we might
remember the darkness that surrounds us of racial prejudice, dominance over the
powerless, life affecting issues of immigration, our vision of unity in the
Body of Christ. May our responses be appropriate in the eyes of Isaiah.
Appropriate also when viewed in light of the warm and compassionate love of
Mary for her children, and the love of Jesus, rejected inappropriately because
he was a lover of sinners.
William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish
in Baltimore, Maryland.