Friday, December 9, 2016

Dec. 9, 2016: St. Juan Diego

Dec. 9, 2016: St. Juan Diego
The close and intimate relationship with Mary enjoyed by Juan Diego is not reserved to saints. We, too, can enter the same pattern of Marian grace. There seems to be three steps in this dynamic of grace, three essential stages in our relationship with Our Lady: encounter, listening, and consecration.
For Juan Diego, Our Lady was a concrete, daily presence to be met with, welcomed, known, cherished, and learned from. Juan Diego did not immediately see Our Lady on the hill of Tepeyac on that December morning. First, he heard an uncommonly beautiful chorus of birds from the hill above him, then he saw an unusual light in the morning sky, and finally he felt a peculiar nudging of grace in his soul. He followed these stirrings of grace rather than going his own way as planned across the footbridge over Lake Texcoco and on to Mexico City. He was willing to seek what was beyond the signs, to accept and to attend to the least indications of Mary’s unseen presence before ever meeting her. Such simple signs of Our Lady’s presence, scattered and often forgotten on our path, draw us closer, by God’s design, to mysteries we cannot see. They are invitations toward a personal encounter with the Mother of God. Our life then increasingly becomes an adventure of grace as she takes the reins of our existence and begins to exercise her spiritual maternity. When we live this daily encounter with Our Lady, trusting her in everything, she gradually integrates every aspect of our life, building it around the grace and mystery of her Son.
Our encounter with Our Lady is only the beginning. If I am her child and she is my mother, she will speak to me. Every time Our Lady appears, from Guadalupe to the present, she speaks. She has something specific to communicate, not only to the world, but to each of us. This will not necessarily take the form of audible words. To listen, we need not only openness of mind, but also docility of will before her. Listening to Our Lady requires deep faith in her involvement in my life, in her concrete plan for me. Just as she had for Juan Diego, Our Lady has a plan for my life as well. She is not present simply to give a little boost to my spiritual life. She is the one given responsibility by the Father for my growth in the knowledge and grace of Jesus. I must listen to her voice, the voice of Wisdom, daily, not just once a year on a retreat, or in those occasional moments when I am so moved. If I accept her love for me, if I accept the fact that she has chosen me, then she and the grace of God will do “great things for me” (Lk 1: 49 — RSV). Though both Juan Diego and Mother Teresa first said “No, not me,” to Our Lady, insisting that they were not good enough or strong enough, in the end they chose to trust in her intercession and in God’s power, and miracles of grace began to take place in their lives. We, too, need an awareness, both of our nothingness and also of the fact that she loves us and chooses us in God’s name. Instead of looking at ourselves, we can gaze upon her at our side and can say: “Here I am … send me!” (Is 6: 8 — NAB). Nothing in us surprises or repels her. Instead, she wraps us in her love and sends us out to build our corner of the kingdom.
This final step of consecration, or entrustment, involves the gift of self to Our Lady, entrusting all that one has and is into her hands. Entrustment to Our Lady has often been called the “secret of the saints,” who recommended handing over to her in a solemn and formal way our gifts and talents, our tasks and responsibilities, and all the details of our daily life. The story of Guadalupe offers a simple and symbolic representation of the dynamics of Marian consecration. After Juan Diego is told to ask the heavenly apparition for a miraculous sign, Our Lady sends him to the top of Tepeyac hill. She instructs him to collect the Castilian roses that he will find miraculously growing there despite the winter season. Interestingly, Our Lady tells Juan Diego to bring them to her, so that she may carefully arrange the roses in his mantle before he presents them to the bishop in Mexico City.
These roses, given by God and arranged by Our Lady, represent the gifts God has entrusted to each of us, beginning with the gift of life. Our Lady takes these gifts along with the details of our lives and arranges them, directing and caring for them in a way that we would be unable to do on our own. She invites us to allow her to dispose of our talents and the circumstances of every day.
As with the roses of Juan Diego, she will prune them, remove their thorns, and arrange them as only she can. This is what allowed Juan Diego to put himself entirely at Our Lady’s disposal, every day. He allowed Our Lady to prepare and arrange all within and around her, and she entrusted her entire future to her care. This is why, though he faced trials and problems of every kind, he never worried. All was left to Our Lady, the one who had said so tenderly to Juan Diego:
“Listen and keep in your heart, my littlest son: There is nothing for you to fear, let nothing afflict you. Let not your face or your heart be worried. Do not fear this sickness or any other illness. Let nothing worry or afflict you. Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms? Is there anything else you need? Don’t let anything afflict you or perturb you.”
There is need for an interior discipline here. We need to give to Our Lady, repeatedly through the day and over the course of the years, our worries, doubts, pains, problems, and all self-reference. This is the key, the last step that will bring full relationship with her and allow her fully to intervene in our lives, to act on our behalf as she did for Juan Diego, and for many other hidden ones whom history will never know. Without this commitment, without the gift of our willing permission, Mary is not free to act. But once we take even the first halting steps of consecration, Our Lady begins to enter our lives in a perceptible way. Her goal is to fashion our soul after the pattern God first established in her own, to see us transformed into a living temple of the Lord, an Ark of the Covenant, that we might carry Christ to the world. This is who Our Lady was. This is who Mother Teresa was. This is who we can be, with her help. -Fr. Joseph Langford MC Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady (pp. 37-38).