Shadow and light at the border

1531_Nuestra_Señora_de_Guadalupe_anagoriaToday there was a bit of  row in the Oval Office. Apparently if the wall is not built, terrible people will be streaming over the southern borders and making America worse by the minute.

The timing of this conversation and the impending (read: horrible) government shutdown has been on my mind. I just finished a book that took my breath away at every turn, a book that had me crying as I read its last words on its final page, a book about the border.

Add to all of this, today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. Of the many apparitions of Mary, the Mother of God, she may just be my favorite. Entire volumes have been written about her, so this short blog post won’t go into all of her details. If you need to know more about her, she is easily found.

For the sake of our post today, let it suffice to say that Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a universally present and beloved presence Continue reading

Unexpected and unlikely


Fiddling with what I sometimes call “the Google machine,” (I heard Rachel Maddow say that about 5 years ago and have used it ever since) I was looking for references to Our Lady of Guadalupe that might expand the focus beyond what we typically find. With thoughts of Pope Francis and his cry to bring the joy of the Gospel to all, to go out from the Church, mla-virgen-de-guadalupe-estampada-en-la-tilma-de-juan-diegoy fingers flew. Knowing that the “Google machine” works this way, I was not surprised to find a post written by my friend Eric Stoltz in 2010; it was for his parish website. (Eric is a deacon at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Beverly HIlls.) What I came across was his website post for today’s feast from 2010, when he wrote:

The third gift of Tepeyac deals with issues of authority. In the story, the bishop is the obstacle and the conquered peasant carries the world-changing message. This is why, in my world, when her oppressed children cry out—whether janitors massing at City Hall, or farm workers protesting along a dusty road in California’s Central Valley, or gay and lesbian Catholics marching down Santa Monica Boulevard; anawim [those who are despised by society but loved by God] of every stripe—they always carry an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We know she walks with us. Impoverished, immigrant, indigenous or “intrinsically disordered,” we remember her words of assurance to Juan Diego: ¿No soy tu madre? “Am I not your mother?”

God persistently reaches out to us, often in the the most unlikely places and faces. Today it is the appearance of La Guadalupana, but that is simply one variation. How can we recognize God? How can we hear and believe the invitation? How do we understand authority?

Juan+Diego+-+Jose+de+IbarraThis all makes me think that perhaps it is not the institution that needs to be toppled, but rather our own expectations, and the expectations of said institution. Today we are given yet another reminder that when that happens, change comes with it.

Over and over we are given examples of God’s love, mercy, invitation, embrace, assurance, and hope. This is God’s authority! God seeks our response and God’s expectation is that we will do the same for others. That is our authority!

Today, may we walk with the images of God, breaking in unexpectedly and in unlikely people and places. Today, may we remember that our expectation and God’s expectation may be very different things.

Third Sunday of Advent – The Desert Blooms and We Meet Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and we light the pink or rose candle, marking Gaudete Sunday. This is a day of rejoicing!  It is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What do the story of blooming in the desert and Our Lady of Guadalupe have to do with one another? Well, in another scriptural theme for this week – be patient!

In our first reading, from Isaiah, we hear about how the desert will blossom and burst into life! New life will come springing forth, where no life could exist from all appearances. What a thought!

Here in the northeast, in upstate New York, although the soil can be sandy, we don’t live in a desert. The desert appears barren, sparse, devoid of life, but it is not. Today I found this article about the desert in Qatar that says:

For a short period in the winter, rain brings the Qatar desert to life. After one of these rains, France Gillespie, author of Discovering Qatar, takes a walk in the desert to explore the plants and animals that inhabit this normally barren place.

It’s amazing, the difference a drop of rain can make. Almost overnight, it seems, the desert springs to life.  Millions of seeds have been lying dormant, waiting to be triggered into action, and the plants that soldier on all the year round: the gnarled, camel-chewed bushes of Desert Thorn [Lycium shawii] and the dusty, Zygophyllum qatarensis, with its salty-tasting fleshy lobes, found all over Qatar, have suddenly sprouted new growth.

It is amazing – right out of the parched sand, comes such vibrant growth!  That is exactly what Isaiah was talking about – literally. More than literally however, we are given a glimpse of God’s promise for us, truly life where there was just a barren desert. What hope we have, what joy.

So now you may be wondering, what all this has to do with either the Gospel from today or where Our Lady of Guadalupe comes in…  As St. James told us in that second reading, be patient!

In today’s Gospel, we hear once again about John as the prophet, the precursor to Jesus. Who announces the Lord is important too.

In 1531, Juan Diego was a humble man, minding his own business when he encountered such an “announcement.” He heard birds singing, he heard his name called out. Who was looking for him? It was Our Lady of Guadalupe, but he did not quiet know or understand just who that was yet! Out of the ordinary landscape bloomed a beautiful woman, with an important message. This message, like a bloom in the desert, would stand out and change everything.

What was once barren, would bring forth life. You see, the local people, by and large, did not have much of an interest in converting to the Catholic religion. And who could blame them? The messages coming to them were not compelling them and you have to wonder just how they were treated by their colonial masters.

However, that was about to change.

Well the rest of the story gets us to the point where flowers bloom on top of Tepeyac hill, in December. These bright and fragrant roses grew where no growth was. Juan Diego, following Our Lady’s instructions, took them to the Bishop. Of course, the roses were placed and wrapped in Juan’s simple tilma and it was the opening of the tilma that revealed the image that is with us to this day. This changed many things – including how the indigenous people came to see the Catholic church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was announcing the coming of the Lord into the hearts of many, not unlike John the Baptist did so many years before.

The dew, the rain in our own lives is grace and what might spring forth is as rich as the bloom in the desert. God brings us this new life and we round this joyful corner that the Third Sunday of Advent marks.