Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I think it is very appropriate that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe always falls during Advent. Advent is a time of darkness and expectation. Darkness into which the light of our salvation will soon shine. Patient expectation.
The word “patient” includes the idea of suffering: Something is not the way it ought to be.
In Mexico in 1531 things were not the way they ought to be. Mexico was suffering a time of darkness, but when the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego she turned it into a time of hope. Darkness into which she brought her maternal love, darkness into which through her intervention the saving light of Jesus will soon shine.
The people were suffering in every way imaginable: exploitation by ruthless conquerors, decimated by contagious diseases to which they had no natural resistance, the collapse of their culture and their religion, the powerlessness of their pagan gods. Nothing was the way things ought to be.
Today many of us can identify with the suffering Jews of Jesus’ time and the suffering Mexicans of the 1500s. Many undocumented immigrants who came here fleeing the darkness of poverty and violence in their homelands now feel very insecure and fearful given the threatening rhetoric and the hateful sentiments that surfaced during the presidential campaign. This is a time of darkness also for refugees worldwide who are faced with closed borders and cold hearts. This is a dark time for those who are in prison, especially for those who know they will never get out. Many of us have darkness within our own families: drugs, alienated family members, domestic violence, unemployment, illness, etc.
There is much in today’s world that is not the way it ought to be. And just like John the Baptist and Our Lady of Guadalupe, I am here to proclaim to you that the light is stronger than the darkness and that the Lord can intervene in unexpected ways to give you hope amid your suffering. After all, Jesus has given us a mother — his mother — who continues to shower on us her maternal love, supporting us especially in our darkest moments.
For that reason, I would like to walk you through the Canticle of Zechariah. Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist and he said these words during what we could call the very first Advent, just a few months before Jesus’ birth. His message is very similar to that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and as such is a message we very much need to hear today. It goes like this:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free” — we very much need that same freedom today. “He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David” — that Savior is Jesus. “Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us” — including people who hate us today. “He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant” — we encounter that mercy in the love of Jesus and the love of our Blessed Mother. ... and this covenant is the New Covenant of grace. “This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, to set us free from the hand of our enemies” — they will not prevail — ”free to worship him without fear” — freeing us from the deception of Satan who tries to get us to abandon our Catholic faith — “free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life” — forgiving our sins, helping us to grow in holiness. “You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High” — we must speak God’s word of hope truthfully and courageously — “for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” — setting us free also from the power of darkness within us. “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us” — beginning with Jesus’ birth on Christmas — “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death” — that’s us. — “and to guide our feet into the way of peace” — the complete peace that God can give, and only God can give.
We all have darkness in our lives. Things we worry about and bad things we simply have to endure. But we are people of hope. That is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the message of Advent and especially the message of Christmas. In our lives too, the light can be — and is — stronger than any darkness we will ever have to face.
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