Immaculate Mary (the Patroness of the United States), Juan Diego, and the Lost Sheep

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Here is a lightly read post from a few years back :

Sometimes what I find interesting is the clustering of readings, and saints, and seasons, memorials and feast days. It is looking at the liturgical calendar not as disconnected days, but as a continuous celebration. Yesterday it was the feast if the Immaculate Conception, today Juan Diego, and today the gospel of Jesus going for the lost sheep.

For the Immaculate Conception, I can ponder its teaching of Mary conceived without the stain of original sin, and I can think of Mary as the Patron of a new “immaculate world.” Mary, the model of the new Eve is also patron of a New World. Into that New World comes the European missionaries who carry Christ across the seas, as Mary carried Christ in her womb. The fruit of those missionaries is Juan Diego, and through Juan comes a new title for Mary that is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It is Immaculate Mary that is the model for Church, and it is that Church brings her Son to this new world. In that lies a mission, the Churches evangelical mission, and a responsibility; to bring Christ as Mary did which is to serve God and not our individual selfish needs. Immaculate Mary is indeed born without sin.

In thinking of that Immaculate Mary and the journey to the new world, I can also ponder in the back of my mind Jesus going after the lost sheep. In His journey for these sheep, many times he too journeyed by boat across the Sea of Galilee where he cured many, and conquered many demons. To go back to the boats of Europe sailing to the new world, I think did their mission emulate Jesus’s and did they faithfully follow the guidance of Immaculate Mary? That’s a complicated question, but in many ways they did work under the guidance of Mary of that title and many times they did not. Man is sinful, and bears that burden of original sin. Many times they brought their demons rather than chase them out, it’s the sinful nature of man.

The counter argument then is this; was the New World Immaculate before those Christian explorers arrived? Again, one for the scholars but I would guess not; they too were human and bore that stain of original sin. And then there is Juan Diego, caught between both those worlds who discovers Mary, Immaculate Mary in Our Lady of Guadalupe. Jesus saved a sheep through the intercession of his Mother. I wonder then as those Europeans who entered this New World, I wonder how many of them were brought salvation anew through their encounters with people like Juan Diego? It’s a ramble, and a journey. The truth though is that Immaculate Mary does the journey with us. She is present in the Old and the New World, and ever Immaculate to guide us on our little rambles through life.

Advent’s second Sunday

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It is no great surprise that John the Baptist Mt 3:1-12 makes an apperance at the second Sunday of Advent, he is a true spokesman of the season. Advent, or Adventus for those who prefer Latin, means arrival. It is the Latin translation of the Greek Parousia which is the word used to describe the second coming of Christ. John the Baptist screams “make way for the Lord.” He prepares people for the Messiah. John also is firmly planted in the Old Testament and its traditions. He is the offspring of a Priest, and he is a prophet. His Baptism is one of repentance. His food and clothes signify his mission. He is a person to take notice of, and someone who delivers an important message. He is separate from society, yet calls out to society. He is a herald. His message of repentance and preparation was an important one for those that surrounded the Nativity of our Lord, his message is important for those that await the second coming of Christ today. Past and present.

John also speaks to the members of his community, and especially its prominent members. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the cultural elite. The Sadducees came from the Temple of Jerusalem, the Pharisees an elite group from the Synagogue. The Sadducees had a narrow view of the covenantal relationship between God and man. They accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament and believed in neither Jewish oral tradition or any written tradition beyond the Pentateuch. They did not believe in eternal life, or in the punishment of sins after life. If one got away with something, they got away with it. Period. I wonder if they understood Johns baptism of repentance? I wonder if they could acknowledge or identify their sins? Theirs was a legalistic approach, black and white; and John certainly asked that they mend their ways with a change of mind and heart.

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
he shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Those Pharisees formed those synagogues during the exile that the prophet Isaiah addresses. They differed from the Sadducees in that they did believe in life after death, and that there were repercussions for their actions. They were particular about avoiding sin, and those that had sinned. They thought few were chosen for entry into the Kingdom of God, and did everything they could to guard their entry ticket. The blind, the cripple, the infirm all incurred the wrath of God for their sins. The Pharisees avoided them at all costs. They did not fully understand Gods Love, and Mercy and Forgiveness. They had their faults along with their positive attributes. At the time one of their faults was that of using their knowledge of the covenant to build  a culture of Nationalism and that was a burden to many. Every one and every society has their faults or sins, then and now. The Sadducees had theirs, the Pharisees had theirs, and we have ours.

Both groups (Pharisees and Sadducees) held positions of high regard in their cultures, yet John refers to them as a “brood of vipers.” Vipers, snakes, the beast of another exile. John’s baptism does not simply wash away their sins, it demands that they take action. It calls them to repent, and to change their ways. They are not granted a privilege, they are given a mission. Their rank in society demands that they fulfill a duty, they are called to action. They are called to change in action and attitude, body and soul. They are called to recognize the LORDS presence, and to be obedient to that LORD. John’s message is simple “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

John’s message of repentance is superimposed over Isaiah mention if the ‘Shoot of Jesse’ that is the sprout that emerges from destruction. Is 11:1-10  If John preaches repentance for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, Isaiah gives a description of that kingdom. That kingdom is described as Gods spirit resting upon them, an era where the lion lays next to the lamb and certainly an idyllic setting. If the description given by the prophet Isaiah were to be condensed into one word, that word would have to be Shalom which is the Jewish word of Peace. It is not the peace of man but that of God. It is not the absence of war and suffering and struggle, but more the absence of any thought of them. It is also harmony and a completeness. It is resting in God’s peace, and returning to obedience. An entry into the Kingdom of Heaven and stepping back into that garden of God man left so many years ago.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

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A few days ago it was the immaculate conception of Mary, today Our Lady of Guadalupe. They are the same Mary, mother of God, but simply different titles. Our Lady of Guadalupe still is immaculately conceived. Today, my thoughts of this feast of the Mexican appearance of Mary does not only revolve around that Mexican Juan Diego, but also is viewed with the perspective of that Spanish priest Juan had dialogue with. My perspective, in fact, comes from that Spanish priest in the New World. I think of him, though not simply from a religious perspective, but from the perspective of an ordinary traveler or tourist. It is the tourist interacting with the native population. More specifically I view that priest, not as any tourist, but as a vacationer descending on any tourist destination. Why such an irreverent view of the priest? It is simply to put into perspective that common relationship between the tourist and those who cater to those folks who visit from afar. I am thinking of trinkets, baubles, souvenir shops, and all of the assorted memorabilia that a local merchant might wish to pawn onto the unsuspecting tourist. From the perspective of the merchant, their goods must cater to the whims of their visitor. Frequently they are nick knacks memorable of a destination, cheaply made and marked specifically to the tastes of a foreign clientele. They are made for the tourist, and are unlikely to be found in the native’s home. They are the disingenuous knockoffs of a culture or destination. Anyone who has traveled to a tourist destination is familiar with these cheap mass produced trinkets. But why view the priest as tourist, and Juan Diego as merchant? That is because, to these eyes, that (in my mind) is how that priest viewed every one of Juan’s early descriptions of Mary. It was, or at least had the potential to be, a cheap knockoff of the priests own vision of the Mother of God. Cheap in that it might have been the superficial resemblance, but was lacking in the details that made it truly original. The priest’s doubts were the fear of trickery and deceit. That is until those roses fell from Juan’s cloak. It was when those roses fell that the Spanish priest recognized a genuine vision of Mary in the new world. Not a cheap knock off, but a genuine, and immaculate appearance of Mary. In those roses, a rose native to Spain, was the Mary of the old world. As they flowed from Juan’s garments, was revealed the same Mary but present in a new World. It was not the Mary of a souvenir shop, poorly crafted to please a travelling clientele, but genuinely Mary Mother of God. An immaculate Mary, free from all flaws, or deceit, or sins. It is the difference between a tourist trinket and the real deal. As I think of Mary and her appearance to Juan Diego, and the people of Mexico, I think of not just that she appeared to Juan, but the conditions necessary for her appearance. Mary did not appear through the force of an invading culture, but revealed herself to a people that began to know and understand her. I think perhaps that is why that priest was so hesitant to accept Juan’s story. His doubt was his fear that Juan’s vision was one of either coercion, or intimidation, or patronage. His realizati0on of the truth of Our Lady of Guadalupe was when all those doubts disappeared, and in their place the Blessed Mother of God appeared. Proof of her appearance? It is those descendants of Juan Diego, which is the people of modern Mexico who are devoted to that same Blessed Lady of Guadalupe today.

Immaculate Mary, Juan Diego, and the Lost Sheep

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Sometimes what I find interesting is the clustering of readings, and saints, and seasons, memorials and feast days. It is looking at the liturgical calendar not as disconnected days, but as a continuous celebration. Yesterday it was the feast if the Immaculate Conception, today Juan Diego, and today the gospel of Jesus going for the lost sheep. For the Immaculate Conception, I can ponder its teaching of Mary conceived without the stain of original sin, and I can think of Mary as the Patron of a new “immaculate world.” Mary, the model of the new Eve is also patron of a New World. Into that New World comes the European missionaries who carry Christ across the seas, as Mary carried Christ in her womb. The fruit of those missionaries is Juan Diego, and through Juan comes a new title for Mary that is Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is Immaculate Mary that is the model for Church, and it is that Church brings her Son to this new world. In that lies a mission, the Churches evangelical mission, and a responsibility; to bring Christ as Mary did which is to serve God and not our individual selfish needs. Immaculate Mary is indeed born without sin. In thinking of that Immaculate Mary and the journey to the new world, I can also ponder in the back of my mind Jesus going after the lost sheep. In His journey for these sheep, many times he too journeyed by boat across the Sea of Galilee where he cured many, and conquered many demons. To go back to the boats of Europe sailing to the new world, I think did their mission emulate Jesus’s and did they faithfully follow the guidance of Immaculate Mary? That’s a complicated question, but in many ways they did work under the guidance of Mary of that title and many times they did not. Man is sinful, and bears that burden of original sin. Many times they brought their demons rather than chase them out, it’s the sinful nature of man. The counter argument then is this; was the New World Immaculate before those Christian explorers arrived? Again, one for the scholars but I would guess not; they too were human and bore that stain of original sin. And then there is Juan Diego, caught between both those worlds who discovers Mary, Immaculate Mary in Our Lady of Guadalupe. Jesus saved a sheep through the intercession of his Mother. I wonder then as those Europeans who entered this New World, I wonder how many of them were brought salvation anew through their encounters with people like Juan Diego? It’s a ramble, and a journey. The truth though is that Immaculate Mary does journey with us. She is present in the Old and the New World, and ever Immaculate to guide us on our little rambles through life.

Advent, second Sunday

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John the Baptist screams “Prepare the way of the Lord!” and that is what this Advent season is about. It is about preparing for the Lord, but what does that mean? How does one prepare for the Lord? When one prepares for a new infant to enter a home, there are preparations that are made. A space needs to be cleared for them, infants have needs to help them grow. They need food and shelter, so does the Lord. Second, all that can harm them has to be removed. John found a cleared space in the desert, far from the distractions of everyday life. He retreated to a place that allowed him to prepare, he prayed. He then proclaimed a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He wished to remove all that could keep that Lord from him. He went to a quiet space and protected it by taking inventory of all in life that was contrary to the Lord. That today is the examination of conscience that come before the confession and repentance of our sins. If John was to make way for the Lord, and that is what we do during Advent, we have to prepare ourselves to receive him, and that requires removing all that stands in the way between me and my Lord. Prayer and Confession. Prepare the way for the Lord!

Isaiah says “Go up on to a high mountain” but why climb that mountain, why put in all of that effort? To climb the mountain is to get far from the flood waters, it is to do our best to keep from drowning, and it is to await salvation. It is clinging to life until help comes, and it is the urgency of escaping a tsunami. That is the type of preparation Advent requires. It is to look at ourselves to prepare the best we can, and it is to look at the dangers that are around us so that we are not swept away in the flood waters. There is looking at our life, there also is looking at the world we live in. We should perhaps open our eyes to the world around us. Be observant, be vigilant, and be engaged in the world around us.

Preparation though is not all gloom and doom, it is the realization that something better is coming. It is remembering that we are not alone, or doomed for suffering. Our sins are forgiven, and there is hope, and there is joy. Hope and Joy are comforting words to someone swimming in a sea of despair; and there are a lot of people in this world that are truly desperate. Might our preparation this season include lending hand to those that are overwhelmed? Giving them a branch to cling to until they too are able to sing of Joy, to extend some hope in this world. Be compassionate.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.