My Little Juan
Our readings from the first week of Advent, especially Isaiah, could be addressed to the people of Juan Diego’s Mexico. In simple agricultural language we meet the God who is gracious when we cry out, who will give water and bread, rain and seed. This God, full of tenderness, says to a crushed and lost people, “This is the way; walk in it”.
Advent gives us an orientation, a ‘how’ to come to Our Lord, a way to welcome the birth of our Savior.
Only 49 years after Columbus’ first voyage to the New World and ten years after Cortez defeats the Aztec people of Mexico, an unexpected, world changing meeting takes place. On the hill of Tepeyac, which was a place of devotion to the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin, a humble man named Juan Diego meets Mary the Mother of God. It is hard to imagine what has happened to the people of Juan Diego’s world. In a generation their traditional world has been dismantled. Their gods have abandoned them and are being abolished by a new religion. Those who preach this new God of love are part of a savage world that is now enslaving them. In the words of Isaiah they are a people who cry out, have no teacher, they weep and are wounded. They are lost.
When Mary appears to Juan Diego she says to him, “Juan, my little one”. Would Mary have remembered teaching her little one, Jesus, about the the faith of Israel and the Father? Would she have treated Juan as she did her son, but tell him now about Jesus and his love that would lead the Mexican people to the Father’s love for them? And more than any words Juan experienced a mother’s love that made him feel special the Mary who chose him, knew his embarrassments and needs, and was quick to care for them as a mother would her child. Can’t we feel a mother’s tenderness as Mary arranges the flowers in his tilma to present them bishop. Juan him the same assurance of any boy going out the door after mom straightens his shirt, pushes back his hair and knowingly gives the boost of courage with her smile that says, ‘you are all set’.
The beautiful story of Juan and Mary gives a new orientation for the people of Mexico. Now they know a loving mother, La Morenita, the little woman with the dark complexion, who really cares for them and leads them to Jesus,
Madeline L’Engle describes Advent as the season that blooms bright and wild, had Mary been filled with reason there would have been no room for the child. Advent orients us through darkness to the light of Jesus. It is a time of hope and comfort for all of us who feel pain and loneliness. Our remembrance of Juan Diego, and all of us like him who search and long, and the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe and her gift us of a mother’s love, bring to our Advent journey something beyond reason. We are watched over and cared for by a mother’s love. Our Mother loves us as she did her son through all the stages of his life, and she loves us with a love uniquely hers, learned and shared from her Son, who is our Savior.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.