483 years ago today, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatzin on the small hill of Tepeyac outside Mexico City identifying herself as "the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live."1 She expressed to him her "ardent desire that a church be erected [there] so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me."2 Worth noting is the inclusion in her solicitude for all who lived in that land, not just Christians, and even others who would learn of her appearance in other lands and grow to love her. The extended patronage of La Virgen de Guadalupe was recognized by John Paul II in 1999 when she was named patroness not of Mexico alone but of the Americas.
When Juan Diego brought Mary's message to Franciscan Bishop Zumarraga, Juan was concerned about his own credibility, being a poor farmer and indigenous. In these days of recent racial tension in Ferguson and New York, it is worth reflecting upon that Mary chose as her messenger someone poor, with a different skin color, who spoke a different language than those in authority in that place. Moreover, when the Bishop bid Juan return with a sign as confirmation of the "mysterious lady's" message, Mary consoled Juan Diego with these words:
"Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here?"3
With these words, Mary identifies herself not only as the Mother of Jesus but as the mother of us all. (Cf. John 19:26-27) That she appeared with the skin color and facial features of the Chichimeca people, shared by Juan, and spoke to him in Nahuatl reminds us that Jesus' humanity which he received from his mother Mary is the same humanity which links each of us to every other human being on the planet in a single common fraternal bond.
As for the church which Mary requested be built, it stands today on that same hill and hosts pilgrims from around the world of every nation, race, and tongue (cf. Rev 5:9)--more annually than any other location in the world. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe which enshrines the tilma which Juan Diego wore, and upon which the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe was miraculously emblazoned, stands as a constant reminder of the solidarity to which each of us is called as well as the Intercessor whose prayers never cease before her Divine Son to make it happen.
God of power and mercy,
you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe.
May her prayers help all men and women
to accept each other as brothers and sisters.
Through your justice present in our hearts
may your peace reign in the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.4