Photo by James A. McBride
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lindenwold, hosted “Many Faces, One Church: A Multicultural Celebration of the Blessed Mother” on Sunday, Dec. 5, featuring performances by choirs of the parish, St. Teresa Vietnamese Catholic Choir, Nigerian Catholic Community Choir, Philippine Community of Southern New Jersey, Jubilate Deo Brass Ensemble, Diocesan Gospel Choir and Immaculate Conception Cathedral Sunday Mass Spanish Ministry (left).
Our Lady of Guadalupe not only made history at a moment in time most crucial for our Mexican people, but her message continues to echo in the hearts and history of the believing community today. Guadalupe’s message continues to be very much alive in those struggling to live a dignified, and Christ-like life in this land of plenty. Mary’s presence and message to us, especially to our migrant brothers and sisters, continue to remain important, even though 479 years have passed since her initial apparitions took place.
Juan Diego, the visionary, came from an indigenous Mexican group with a sense of unworthiness, having been humiliated and rejected by the dominant culture present at the moment. Juan Diego had been made to feel like a “foreigner” in his own country. Juan Diego knew what it was like to be the recipient of the fight for power, ambition, racism and segregation: “I am not truly worthy; I feel like the leaf blown away by the wind, like manure at the service of those unknown to me; I do not think it is my place to go where you are graciously asking me to go, My Lady.” It is easy to see that for Juan Diego and his people, this was a time of obscurity, desolation and death.
Our Latino brothers and sisters’ lives today seem to be very much the same as what Juan Diego experienced so long ago. Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only a feast we celebrate each year but above all a feast that brings a message of hope and strength for all as we remember the power of her presence in history. It was Our Lady who chose Juan Diego, to make him the most dignified ambassador of a message totally new and ever present: Jesus, the only One capable of breaking barriers of any type.
The Guadalupe message comes anew each year, calling us to unity within diversity. It is Our Lady constantly inviting us to build a home — a sanctuary — where everybody may enter and have a place, actively participating in the building of God’s kingdom. It is Our Lady forever reminding us to build a sanctuary — a community — where everybody belongs and must call it home without fears and apprehensions, a place where differences are welcome and nationalities do not get in the way. It is Our Lady calling us to become ambassadors of God’s message like Juan Diego, even to the point of having to break barriers within our hearts as well as within our society. It is Our Lady forever praying and waiting for us to build our sanctuary — a new human family — where Christ is the center and measure of our actions and feelings.
Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 each year is not only a matter of remembering a moment in history, but above all recalling an event that continues to be very much alive in the hearts of all who keep working on building the “Living Sanctuary” where Jesus is the center in our Tepeyac here and now. Juan Diego’s Tepeyac is in you and within me each time we intentionally look out for our brother and sister in need. Juan Diego’s Tepeyac continues to come alive each time we openly and readily embrace others as members of our community of faith.
May Our Lady of Guadalupe bless us all.