Our Lady of Guadalupe Votive Mass
Knights of Columbus Marian Congress
Homily by Bishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain
Visit to the Shrine at Guadalupe
Some years ago, I had the joy and privilege of accompanying the Worthy Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, and his wife Dorian, and many of my fellow Knights of Columbus and families, to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had been there on prior occasions, most memorably when Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990. During my visits, I sensed the devotion of the Mexican people & so many pilgrims. My faith was strengthened as I stood with people from all over the world who had come to gaze up the countenance of Our Lady, to listen to her message, and to pray to her in their hour of need for themselves and for their families.
During my last visit to the Shrine at Guadalupe, I had the privilege of drawing closer to the image of Our Lady, close enough to see more clearly the details of her face and vesture, by which she signaled her special, maternal love for Mexico and for America. At that moment I spontaneously entrusted my service as a bishop to Our Lady of Guadalupe, in solidarity with the many people in my Diocese who are devoted to her. Emulating our Worthy Supreme Knight, I also entrusted my service as Supreme Chaplain of the K. of C. to Our Lady of Guadalupe, praying for her help in living the principles of the Order and advancing its mission.
Before her now, I re-entrust my service to the Church even as I invite all of you, my brothers and sisters, to entrust your lives of faith, your vocations, your families, your special work to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has identified with us, and has come among us with a love at once gentle and powerful.
Ask for a sign
In light of today’s Scripture readings, we see Our Lady of Guadalupe as a sign from God that was both promised and received. In the first reading, the Lord, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, tells Ahaz, the eighth-century B.C. King of Judah, to ask for a sign. Even though Judah is terrible straits, even though all appeared to be lost, Ahaz hesitates — not because of reverential fear but because of a lack of faith.
So, he declines to do what Isaiah asked: “I will not tempt the Lord! I will not ask!” Isaiah takes Ahaz to task, quickly dispatches his false piety, and tells him what the sign will be: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son!”
The Spanish missionaries and Juan Diego’s good bishop, Zumárraga,were not unlike the desperate Ahaz as they contemplated the seeming impossibility of bringing the faith to a new continent and to a new people. As we have seen, the cruelty of the Spanish conquers had undercut their efforts to proclaim the name of Christ and to invite the indigenous peoples to the faith. Like Ahaz, Bishop Zumárraga was in dire straits. Unlike Ahaz, however, he prayed for a sign from heaven, he prayed for a sign of divine favor that would redeem the times and enable the faith to spread throughout the New World.
The Sign Is Given
The Lord sent the bishop and his fellow missionaries a sign, indeed a miraculous sign: the same sign that He promised to King Ahaz of Judah, the very sign St. Paul proclaimed to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The Virgin of Guadalupe appears before Juan Diego wearing a sash, a sign that she was with child, with Jesus. She carried the Eternal Son of God, the longed-for Messiah, who took flesh in her womb and became the Lord of History. Robed in the sun and stars, radiant in the light and life of divine love, Mary brought Christ to Juan Diego and to all of us the only One who fully reveals, affirms, and redeems our human dignity wounded by sin.
She is the sign Isaiah told Ahaz to look for. She is the sign that prophets, seers, and sages of every age longed to see. And now she stands before a humble, devout man of no social standing. Who ever thought that anyone in authority would listen to him? Who ever thought that the world would heed his message? In her maternal love, Mary thought so; in fact, she insisted on it! She kept sending Juan Diego back to the bishop so that he could see and accept God’s answer to his prayer: the sign of the Virgin with Child!
Now, We Are the Sign
Foretold by Isaiah, proclaimed by Paul, received by Elizabeth, Mary accompanies Christ to our threshold: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, say be the word…!”. She who visited St. Juan Diego comes among us as the Woman of the Eucharist, the Virgin in whom the crucified & risen Lord took flesh, the our God and brother who gives himself to us in sacrifice, as food and drink.
If we enter worthily into this Eucharist, the sign promised, given, and received will come to fruition in us. We, the sons and daughters of the Virgin of Guadalupe, will be living signs of the transforming presence of Christ in the world in which we live. We will be that sign of contradiction, defending the unborn, that sign protecting the family, serving the poor, assisting the immigrant. We will allow Christ to dwell in us as in a temple and free us from sins, so that his light will shine through us onto a darkened, hope-starved world.
Let the imprint of Mary’s love be found on our soul so that her song of praise might be echoed and re-echoed in our words and deeds and our testimony to the Gospel of life and love bear abundant fruit.
O Virgin Mother of Guadalupe, pray for us!