In celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I’m posting an excerpt from an article I wrote last year after the Frassati pilgrimage to Mexico—click here to read the full piece:
Juan Diego was likely filled with confusion and sadness as he set out on the morning of December 12. Days earlier, he had met the beautiful Virgin and felt such happiness, but now everything was turned upside down. He was losing the only family member he had left; he felt alone and abandoned. How could he talk to Mary again, in this moment? He couldn’t possibly summon the joyful obedience he’d shown her days before. So he took a different path, intending to avoid her—he wasn’t ready to see her yet.
Juan Diego expected that when he met Mary again, he would be prepared, ready to focus fully on her message without distraction or confusion. Dealing with his uncle’s sickness, he didn’t think he could face Our Lady on a day when he was so overwhelmed with a growing melancholy and other pressing duties. But he didn’t realize that Mary was coming to meet him in his weakest moment, in his greatest despair—to heal him and bring him the comfort that only a mother can give, to carry her Son to him and instill true hope.
We think that we’re not ready to meet God, that we ought to wait until we really have our act together to reach out to Him, so that we can properly greet Him—but it is precisely in those moments that we need Him most. He is the only one who can draw us out of the pit of suffering and sin. Juan Diego went out of his way to avoid Mary, thinking he could not face the Mother of God when he barely understood what the point of living was, when we are all destined to die. He couldn’t bring himself to meet her, so she came to meet him where he was.
We want God to come on our own terms, but instead He comes on His terms: in the womb of a woman, in the midst of a world that is broken and suffering. He is the light amid the darkness, leading us toward a new day in the Kingdom of God if we stay with Him through the dawn. He met Juan Diego on Tepeyac, hidden in the womb of His Mother. Even though Juan Diego couldn’t see Him in the midst of his suffering, He was there. He is carried within each of us when we receive the Eucharist, and He grows quietly in our hearts as we await the birth of His presence into the world.
Life is Advent. Jesus does not arrive in the world by force; He knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks to be let in, asks for us to nurture a light that will eventually overcome the darkness. We spend our lives in wait for that moment, the coming of the day. Its real fulfillment will come after the dark night of death, as we are not made for this world. But we can see a glow if we tend to the flame within us. We see it shining from the hearts of others, too. Zumárraga prayed for a light in the darkness, but when it came, he didn’t see it at first because he was looking in the wrong direction. His prayers were answered, but not in a way he expected; God took him by surprise. Juan Diego, unable to see God in the world, felt a deep hopelessness—but God was present, hidden, and He reached out to meet him, to help him see the promise of the new dawn on its way.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, be our comfort in the midst of the dark night. Help us to welcome your Son into our lives, in whatever surprising way He comes to us. When we stray from the path, come out to meet us where we are; when we can’t see through the darkness, turn our faces to see the light dawning.