Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28).
We do not often get so clear a picture of how God works in history. What happened in the conquered colony of Mexico some 500 years ago is a lesson for today about the limits of human arrogance and power.
The brutal conquest of the so-called New World by Spain elicited from its suppressed peoples one of the most compelling and beautiful counter signs in the history of religion. Juan Diego, a peasant laborer, showed up at the bishop's residence with an outrageous command. The bishop was to build a church on a nearby hilltop where a former Aztec temple had previously stood. The peasant was only conveying the message from a young pregnant mestiza he had encountered.
The bishop sent the man away with an impossible demand for proof. Juan Diego returned, his cloak filled with Castilian roses, though it was December and hillsides were barren of foliage. And as the roses spilled out onto the floor, the front of the cloak revealed a brilliant image of the woman now revered as "Our Lady of Guadalupe."
The event as recalled and believed by the people of Mexico powerfully wed the Aztec and Spanish cultures that had collided in the Conquest. European devotion to Mary merged with devotion to the Lady in the vision to affirm that God had been already present in the Americas when the Spanish arrived. God's own Mother stood with the poor, enslaved people, sheltering them with compassion and transforming both cultures, already pregnant with a different future.
Conquerors beware. Oppressors and exploiters take note. God's preferential love for the poor is an unstoppable force within history, Mary of Nazareth, Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas and of all those who need justice in today's, proclaims her Magnificat. The powerful will be pulled from their thrones and the rich will be sent away empty for neglecting the poor, the crucified of history.
Today's feast is a fitting prelude to Christmas, the coming of the Son of God, savior and ruler, to call the world back to its true destiny as beloved community. We are invited to proclaim that message with all our hearts and by the way we live.