The headline on the paper declared why there had been a black-out for several hours on Wednesday. Lightning had struck a power station. Good news? Well, I guess it could have been worse. But papers sell sensational news, and often that is more compelling when it involves other peoples’ suffering.
On the other hand this is the day when many people celebrate a very different story. In 1531 Juan Diego, a pious Indian man was making his way to Mass at dawn when he had a vision of a beautiful lady. The lady bade him go to the Bishop to ask for a shrine to be built in her honor on that place. The place was significant to the Indian man, it had been sacred to Tonantzin, the Aztec goddess of hearth and home. Now the one he instantly recognized as the Mother of our Lord was making him, the Indian man, welcome.
It was nice that she have him her welcome—a personal and interior thing that he could treasure with no threat to the outer inequities under which he lived. But the faith is never only personal, it is always also social. To have an Indian man go and request such a thing from the Bishop upset the social hierarchy of the Spanish colony—it would never work, and he knew it.
But she insisted. And he was right. The Bishop demanded a sign. And so the lady gave him roses of Castile, growing on the top of a desert mountain in December. When the Bishop saw the roses and her image emblazoned on his “tilma” or poncho, he was touched to the heart. He, then gave Juan Diego his welcome, and the next day Juan Diego led the bishop to where the shrine was to be built. More than the image, the real miracle occurred in the unjust social structures of the day, undone and leveled by the faith, so that these two Christians, though socially so distant, stood side by side at the holy site.
What would Guadalupe challenge in our world today? I think she would ask us to build an interfaith shrine to all the souls lost in the deserts of the Southwest trying to find a life with the dignity of the opportunity to make a living wage. I think she would ask us to build one to all the women and children who braved incredible dangers to get to our borders, fleeing even more dangerous situations at home. I think she would ask us to have the INS budget fund the shrines and Congress come to witness their blessing.
Anyone got roses?