Monday, December 12, 2016

OL of Guadalupe

These past six years, for the first time in my priestly career, I have served in a parish which lacks a Latino community. So the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes and goes for me each year without the overwhelming attention I used to experience elsewhere. But the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and its particular prominence in the liturgical calendar in the United States speaks directly to the demographic destiny of the Church in the United States and to the multiple pastoral challenges facing the future for the Church in this country. For these and for reasons even more fundamental, this patronal feast of the Church on this American continent is an occasion which must not pass unnoticed. 

The most fundamental reason, of course, the reason the vision on the hill of Tepeyac was the decisive event in this continent's history, is the story itself and what it reveals about God's presence and action in our world. At a time when the Native American population in Mexico was defeated and dispirited, having lost their gods and temples and compelled to build churches for an apparently alien European God, when the good news of Christ came apparently camouflaged by the bad news of conquest and cultural destruction, Saint Juan Diego received the heavenly command to build a church, and in the process Christ's Church began to be built up on this continent, through the encounter of European and Native cultures so dramatically symbolized in the iconography of the image Our Lady imprinted on Juan Diego's tilma. This 16th-century building up of the Church in America echoed the earlier experience of Saint Francis of Assisi, commanded to rebuild a ruined local church as the symbolic starter for reinforcing the tottering structure of late medieval Christendom. These stories celebrate the perennial power of the Gospel to be planted and built and rebuilt - evangelization and re-evangelization rooted not in the tearing down but in the building up of institutions in and through which God's great love, compassion, help, and protection may be continually revealed and experienced, as Our Lady promised to Saint Juan Diego.

Today, as Saint Juan Diego's spiritual heirs face frightening new threats and challenges, the Church in America continues to struggle to achieve that fullness of encounter that may bring the Church's building and rebuilding on this continent to its fulfillment.

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