Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 10, 2023
2nd Sunday of Advent – Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton           

In today’s gospel reading for this Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist speaks to a world consumed with suffering and pain; a world in which lives are not free and people are losing hope.  As he calls the people of his day and age to repentance, he reminds them – and us – that the power of God is the only true source of our life and peace.   Setting aside all else on his journey of faith, he committed himself to a singular purpose:  preparing hearts to encounter God – clearing a pathway for the coming of the Lord.

Yet, for all that John proclaims by his words and life, it’s Mary – whom we honor this day as Our Lady of Guadalupe – who most clearly teaches us what it means to journey in faith, to trust and to embrace the power and presence of God.  For the actual feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Church offers two different gospel passages for our reflection.  Both are taken from the first chapter of Saint Luke’s gospel.  The first conveys the story of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was to give birth to the Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The second follows these verses immediately and describes Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who would give birth in her old age to John the Baptist.

Both passages communicate the beginning moments of a lifetime journey on the part of Mary that found her embracing the mission and message of her son, Jesus – following him with devotion and faith throughout the course of his life, death and resurrection – and proclaiming God’s saving grace in the earliest days of the Church.

The final words of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, found in the second gospel passage that I just referenced are worth some reflection.  “Blessed are you, Mary, who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  …  Mary’s deep sense of trust in God and her belief in God’s promise to save his people from the brokenness of our world allowed her to journey with all who sought to encounter the life-giving promises of her son, Jesus.

Recount with me for just a moment the story of Mary’s life.  It is a story of an endless journey, filled with movement from one soul to the next, as she sought to embrace God’s will in her life.  …  Following her election by God to be the mother of the Savior, Mary immediately journeyed to visit Elizabeth.  But her willingness to follow God’s invitation didn’t end with that encounter.  She journeyed to Bethlehem where her son was born and then to Egypt to keep him safe for his mission.  She journeyed to Cana where Jesus performed the first sign revealing his glory and then she followed Jesus all the way to the cross.  And after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary journeyed with his disciples to receive the Spirit and to build the Church – the redeemed People of God.   

Never forget, however, that Mary’s journey continued well beyond the earliest days of our Church.  She journeyed all the way to Tepeyac to accompany Juan Diego.  And she continues – to this very day – to journey throughout our world, assisted by your prayers and devotion.  She journeys to homes and prison cells, to hospital rooms, schools and rest homes and even to our borders with those seeking refuge, safety and peace.  And as she spoke to Juan Diego, she speaks to us: “Am I not here, who am your Mother?”

In these challenging times in which we find ourselves, the world needs the hope that comes from the example and presence of Mary more than ever.  With wars raging in the Middle East and Ukraine, fear and uncertainty at our borders, and growing injustice, famine, poverty and suffering, we need to recall the words spoken to Mary by her cousin Elizabeth, “Blessed are you, Mary, who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  …  And what was spoken to her was nothing short of a promise of salvation and peace for all who embrace the Lord’s example of selfless love and mercy.

Several years ago on this great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Francis reflected upon Mary’s willingness to journey to whatever place and people God invited her to engage.  “To celebrate the remembrance of Mary is to assert against all odds that ‘in the heart and life of our peoples there beats a strong sense of hope, notwithstanding the conditions of life that seem to overshadow all hope.’”

“Because Mary believed, she loved, because she is the handmaid of the Lord and a servant of her brothers. To celebrate the remembrance of Mary is to celebrate that, like her, we are invited to go out and to encounter others with the same gaze, with the same mercy within, with the same gestures. To contemplate her is to feel the strong invitation to imitate her faith. Her presence leads us to reconciliation, giving us strength to create bonds in our blessed world, by saying ‘yes’ to life and ‘no’ to every kind of indifference and rejection of peoples and persons.”

“Let us not be afraid to go out and look upon others with the same gaze; a gaze that makes us brothers and sisters. We do so because, like Juan Diego, we know that our mother is here, we know that we are beneath her shadow and under her protection, which is the source of our joy, that we are within her embrace.”