Nearly 1,500 people gathered this morning in Phoenix, Arizona to celebrate a Votive Mass of St. Juan Diego for the second day of the International Marian Congress. Bishop Thomas Olmsted, the principal celebrant of the Mass, spoke to the participants about the Mexican saint, stressing his deep humility in accepting the will of the Father.
The Phoenix bishop reflected on Friday’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew in which Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
The bishop noted that Juan Diego would have rejoiced in Jesus’ words. “From his own life experience and that of his native people in central Mexico, he was keenly aware of the stark contrast between the yoke of slavery and the yoke of being a beloved son. He had gratefully embraced the yoke of being a child of God in Baptism, and he desired to do his heavenly Father’s will at all times.”
At the same time, Juan Diego “knew that God’s way is so different from our human ways that it is tempting to think our human ways are better, especially when we do not initially understand what God is asking or what obedience requires.” The Mexican saint understood that it is only through “perseverance and grace” that one receives the humility to accept God’s plan.
“The humble have ‘no other gods,’ no false idols, nothing that their heart desires more than a loving communion with the Lord and fellowship with all the saints,” Bishop Olmsted explained. “Because he knew how to ‘conduct his affairs with humility,’ Juan Diego was ready to put aside his own affairs when a higher calling or more important mission beckoned.”
“Of course,” the bishop continued, “that is what happened when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him on Tepeyac hill in December of 1531, and asked him to be her chosen messenger to take a message to the Bishop of Mexico. To carry out that mission, Juan Diego needed both the grace of perseverance and the virtue of humility.”
St. Juan Diego “was not eager to draw attention to himself but delighted in drawing attention to the beauty of God and to his mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe. When he showed the bishop his tilma, not only did the Virgin Mary’s image appear on its surface but also the beauty and frangrance of roses that he had picked on Tepeyac hill.”
“Like a child,” said the bishop, Juan Diego “was grateful to call God his Father and to call the Blessed Virgin Mary his Mother.
The bishop then concluded by acknowledging that “it takes a long time for most of us to realize our true stature before the Lord. But, from time to time, God lifts up a saintly person…and invites us to hear Him say with Jesus, the Son of Mary, ‘I give you praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed the to the childlike.’