There is no deed ever done in isolation. Every act is prepared by previous actions which make the deed in question possible, and which in turn make further deeds possible. And while nothing is done in isolation, the deed itself is a free act, sometimes requiring a lot of courage.
Our Gospel today is part of the story of Mary's acceptance of God's will that she should become the mother of the Savior. Mary's action here had been prepared through the message of the prophets and more recently through her own Immaculate Conception and yet, Mary's acceptance itself was a free act, requiring a lot of courage. Elizabeth recognizes this when she says, "Blessed are you for having believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled."
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the main features of the story of the apparitions at Tepeyac was the acceptance by Juan Diego of Mary's request that he bring her messages to the Bishop of Mexico City that he should build a Church on the site of the appearances. But notice, this was not done in isolation.
Juan Diego's actions had been prepared through his awareness of other appearances of Mary and corresponding antecedents in Aztec mythology, and more recently through his own conversion to Catholicism and devout practice of the faith. And as we know, his compliance with Mary's request set in motion a series of acts leading to the conversion of the people of Mexico to Christianity, which continue to nurture our faith today 450 years later.
Yet we should remember that though there were things that prepared Juan Diego for this moment — not least of which was his personal experience of Mary's maternal love on Tepeyac, his acceptance of Mary's message was a free act, requiring of him a lot of courage and perseverance. And all of the stories of the roses and the miraculous image on his tilma remind us that the conversion of Mexico that was made possible not only because of Mary's intervention, but also because of Juan Diego's willingness to do what she asked.
You and I may not be recipients of heavenly visions, but what is true for Mary and Juan Diego is also true for us. God has a place in his plan for each of us, specific things that he wants us to do with our lives.
These choices we make are never done in isolation. They have been prepared through our family history and through the specific circumstances of our lives. These choices are decisive for us, and they set in motion a series of other acts which have the effect of creating our future.
Your tomorrow is created by the choices you make today. Not only your future; also the future of those with whom your life is connected — and indeed, even the future of persons who are not yet born.
Even though a lot of things prepare us for the choices we must make, the decision itself is our own free act. And as with Mary and Juan Diego, some decisions — if rightly made — will require a lot of courage and perseverance.
This feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe falls during the season of Advent, a time when we look inside ourselves to discern God's movement in our lives and the choices God would like us to make. Let us pray that we may come to know and accept God's will, his plan for our lives. And that like them, we will make the right choices and have the courage and perseverance to overcome any obstacles in the way. In doing this, the words of the Gospel will apply also to us: "Blessed are you for having believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled."
Mary believed and the world was saved. Juan Diego believed and Mexico was converted. You and I believe, and yet in many ways our response is weak. May the Lord deepen our faith and commitment, so that like Mary and Juan Diego, our faith may also bear lasting fruit worthy of the Lord.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Dec. 12.
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