Advent 2014 – Devotion 13

If you are Protestant, you may not know that today is the Saint Day for the Virgin of Guadalupe. She is the patron saint of Mexico and one of the most revered expressions of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church. She is considered holy by people around the world not just in Mexico.

Here is an abbreviated version of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous Indian on a hillside in Mexico. Juan Diego went to report this occurrence to the bishop. The bishop did not believe him. Finally, the Virgin gave Juan Diego roses to take to the bishop in the dead of winter when they were not blooming. This manifestation convinced the bishop to take Juan Diego seriously and a church was built in honor of the Virgin.

In broader terms, the Virgin of Guadalupe gave the people of Mexico a female religious figure akin to the goddesses of their native religions. And it gave the people a saint who was one of them, who reached out to them, and who cared for them.

Several years ago, our nephew, a white Protestant, married a Catholic woman of Mexican heritage. During the wedding ceremony, the couple went to an altar with a Euro-American looking Virgin Mary and lit a candle. Then they went to another altar with a Mexican looking Virgin of Guadalupe and lit another candle. I had never seen this kind of veneration before and asked about it. I was told that it was a way of honoring the couple’s cultural roots – European and Mexican. Very interesting!

One of the things I see in the Virgin of Guadalupe is a God that reaches out to us whatever our circumstances or heritage. I see a God interested in connecting with all people and showing respect and care for all people. This shows a God that meets us where we are.

The classic view of Jesus is that he is God become human to show love for us. God meeting us on our turf. God identifying with our circumstances. God walking a mile in our shoes, we could say.

Today as the Virgin of Guadalupe is revered the world over, we are reminded that God encompasses the whole world, the entire human family, and all that is beyond in the cosmos. God truly is universal and yet comes to us in ways that we can relate to whatever our situation in life.

For reflection: Give some thought to how you image God and how that relates to your cultural/historical identity.

Prayer: Jesus came to show divine love for all people. As a person, he was of a specific gender, culture, religion, and historical era. But in his context, he witnesses to universal love. His service, sacrifice, and compassion speak across cultures, religions, and ages. May we witness to universal love in our setting whatever it may be. Amen.

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