12 December, Saturday — Who was that man?

Dec 12 – Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town which grew up around the church. It makes the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of a woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico, it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday, 9 December 1531 to a 55-year-old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac Hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer.

The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for the sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed and Bernardino seemed at death’s door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby St. James’ convent to ask for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, “What road is this thou takest son?”

A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself “Holy Mary of Guadalupe”, she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma (a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians), he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop.

When Juan met with Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak, the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life-size figure of the Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop’s chapel, and soon after, carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the ‘canvas’ was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at the apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration for the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager, supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.

The clergy, secular and regular, have been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office.

  • Patron Saint Index

Ecc 48:1-4,9-12
Mt 17:10-13

“…they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.”

I’m pretty sure all of us have, at one point or another, mistaken someone for another person and either made that person’s day, or made him/her feel awkward. In my line of work (well, one part of it), we have to deal with guests/visitors and I am in charge of making sure that the proper levels of protocol and, therefore, the right levels of treatment for each guest are accorded. Some of our guests are used to it and expect it, some are not too fussed by it and return the graciousness by being generous enough to make it a point to be less formal and ‘officious’. Rarely have I seen someone be embarrassed by the treatment given. On the rare occasion I have been a guest at an event or function, I too feel ‘honoured’ that I have been assigned a seat, or a host to show me around.

In my entire life, I have been blessed to have encountered Christ twice. And each time, it was He who welcomed me with open arms (once even putting an arm around my shoulders). I recall quite vividly, a sense of amazement at being in His presence, and most definitely shedding tears as well. So when I came across today’s passage, I was a little perplexed. How blinded by sin were these people that they could not recognise the Son of Man? Because when His face shone on me, I just fell to my knees and wept and wept, so enamoured and consumed by the love that kept pouring and overflowing over me — in spite of my sinful nature, and despite my doubts and fears that I would never be able to live up to the expectations.

But here’s the rub — there are no expectations with God. It is we who place them upon ourselves. All God wants for us is to admit to our fallen nature and then to submit in trust and faith to His unconditional love. It sounds easy, but it is far from it, because it calls us to put behind us all that the devil tries to plant in our thoughts, our hearts and our actions. Funny isn’t it? How easy it is to succumb to the ‘welcome’ that involves all manner of sin — alcohol, gambling, pornography, gossip, rumour-mongering, cheating, lies…it goes on and on. We recognise — or pretend not to recognise — the ‘smiling, debonair, smooth-talking host’…then we enter his lair.

Yet, when God knocks on our door, we tend to ignore it…or turn away. And even when the door is open (the handle is on OUR side, brothers and sisters), we are hesitant, tentative, even distracted. Why? What else does He have to do to ‘prove’ that He is indeed the God of Hosts?

‘How glorious you were in your miracles…Has anyone reason to boast as you have?’ — Ecc 48:4

In spite of all that He has done for us, we continue to reject and deny Him, we question, we debate, we justify and try to rationalise. Brothers and sisters, He has already come into our hearts and is waiting for us to acknowledge it and to live fully in His love. He is the host in our homes, our workplaces, our families — where there is interaction between us, there He is, making a way for us to straighten our paths towards Him.

All He asks is to let His face shine upon us so that we can be saved. We can only do that if we look Him squarely in the eyes and welcome Him in.        

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we find it difficult to accept that you love us as your sons and daughters because we are broken and sinful. Flood our hearts with the desire to know your love for us so that we may experience your deep, unconditional love.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Lord, for never giving up on us and always standing at the door of our hearts, always knocking patiently waiting for us to welcome you in.


One thought on “12 December, Saturday — Who was that man?

Add yours

  1. “All He asks is to let His face shine upon us so that we can be saved. We can only do that if we look Him squarely in the eyes and welcome Him in.”

    Thank you for this reflection and your prayer


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