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Homily on the Feast Day of Saint Juan Diego

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
La Crosse, Wisconsin

1 Cor 1, 26-31

Ps 131, 1. 2. 3

Mt 11, 25-30


Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen!

Saint Juan Diego is a powerful model for us in his disposition to do whatever Our Lady of Guadalupe asked of him. At her first apparition to him, on December 9, 1531, he understood that he was witnessing a visit of Heaven to earth. At first, he wondered whether he might be imagining what was happening or might be having a dream.[1] But, when Our Lady spoke to him and requested that he communicate to the Bishop her desire that he build a chapel in which she would manifest God’s merciful love, Juan Diego willingly accepted the mission. Although he was deeply conscious of his lowliness, he humbly went to the Bishop to make Our Lady’s will known.

When the Bishop understandably questioned the truth of what Juan Diego was relating to him, Juan Diego began to doubt that he was the right person to be our Lady’s messenger, for he supposed that the Bishop would not question someone of a higher state in life. Meeting Our Lady for a second time, as he returned from the first meeting with the Bishop, he explained the Bishop’s response: “He received me kindly and listened with attention, but, from the way he answered me, it’s as if his heart didn’t recognize it [Our Lady’s “venerable word”], he doesn’t think it’s true.”[2] Juan Diego then begged Our Lady, in his words, “to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, have him carry on, take your venerable breath, your venerable word, so that he will be believed.”[3]

Our Lady answered Juan Diego immediately with these words:

"Listen my youngest son, know for sure that I have no lack of servants, of messengers, to whom I can give the task of carrying my breath, my word, so that they carry out my will; but it is necessary that you, personally, go and plead, that by your intercession, my wish, my will, become a reality. And I beg you, my youngest son, and I strictly order you, to go again tomorrow to see the Bishop. And in my name, make him know, make him hear my wish, my will, so that he will bring into being, he will build, my sacred house that I ask of him. And carefully tell him again how I, personally, the ever Virgin Holy Mary, I, who am the Mother of God, sent you as my messenger."[4]

Juan Diego did as Our Lady commanded and, even though he had additional challenges, especially the seemingly fatal illness of his uncle, he accomplished the mission Our Lady entrusted to him. In fact, from the day when he presented to the Bishop the sign which he had requested, the sign provided by Our Lady and Our Lord – the miraculous Castillian roses and the even more miraculous imprint of the image of Our Lady on the cactus-cloth tilma of Juan Diego – , until the day of his death, he was Our Lady’s faithful messenger, drawing pilgrims to her sacred image and recounting to them her message.

Our Lord invites us, as He invited Juan Diego through the Virgin of Guadalupe, to take up our mission in life, even if it is seemingly impossible, with trust that He is with us always:

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."[5]

Following the example of Saint Juan Diego and invoking his intercession, we receive the grace to understand our mission in life and to embrace it with trust in Our Lord’s promise. No matter what may be our personal gifts and no matter what challenges may come along our way, we have only one concern: to take up each day the cross with Our Lord.[6] If we faithfully carry the cross with all our heart, we can be certain that the Lord will not fail to bless us not only in this life but finally and fully in the life which is to come.

When we take up our mission in life with trust in divine grace, we, with Juan Diego, come to understand the divinely inspired words of Saint Paul:

"For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God."[7]

We are Christ’s co-workers. If we give to Him our whole heart, all our mind and strength, He will bring to fruition, now and in eternity, everything we offer to Him, no matter how poor and lowly it may seem.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is asking us today, as she asked Saint Juan Diego, to be her messengers, so that she may reach countless souls. From the perspective of our human flesh, we have every reason to doubt that we can accomplish the mission. There are so many worldly reasons to doubt and to give way to discouragement. With Saint Juan Diego, under the loving care of the Mother of God, we go forward, trusting that Christ will transform our poverty into a rich gift for ourselves and for others. As Saint Paul teaches us:

"He [God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.'”[8]

Let us trust that we can do what God is asking of us in our time not because of our talents and merits but because we are alive in Christ, because the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit pours forth from Christ’s glorious-pierced Heart into our hearts.

Let us also pray, in a particular way, that Our Lady’s shrine here may be always true to its mission as a holy place in which the Mother of God draws pilgrims into a more intimate relationship with her Divine Son, their Savior. Let us ask Saint Juan Diego to intercede for the Shrine so that, in imitation of his holy life, it may serve ever more fully the spiritual good of pilgrims, especially in a time which is so worldly and even hostile to what is spiritual, to what is true and good and beautiful. Let our only boast be in the Lord, in our cooperation with Him to bring His saving truth and love to all.

Under the maternal guidance of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Mother of God, we now unite our hearts to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. May the Heart of Jesus be for us, as it was for Saint Juan Diego, our wisdom, our strength, our justice, our love, our eternal salvation.

Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us!

Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Cf. “Apéndice A, El Nican Mopohua,” in Carl Anderson y Monseñor Eduardo Chávez, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Madre de la civilización del amor (México: Grijalbo, 2010), p. 213, nn. 9-10. [NMEsp]. English translation: “Appendix A, The Nican Mopohua,” in Carl A. Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 172, nos. 9-10. [NMEng].

[2] “Me recibió amablemente y con atención escuchó, pero, por lo que me respondió, como que su corazón no lo reconoció, no lo tuvo por cierto.” NMEsp, p. 216, n. 51. English translation: NMEng, p. 175, no. 51.

[3] “… que a alguno de los estimados nobles, que sea conocido, respetado, honrado, le encargues que conduzca, que lleve tu venerable aliento, tu venerable palabra para que le crean.” NMEsp, p. 216, n. 54. English translation: NMEng, p. 175, no. 54.

[4] “Escucha, tú, el más pequeño de mis hijos, ten por cierto que no son escasos mis servidores, mis mensajeros, a quien encargue que lleven mi aliento, mi palabra, para que efectúen mi voluntad; pero es necesario que tú, personalmente, vayas, ruegues, que por tu intercesión se realice, se lleve a efecto mi querer, mi voluntad. Y mucho te ruego, hijo mío el menor, y con rigor te mando, que otra vez vayas mañana ver al obispo. Y de mi parte hazle saber, hazle oír mi querer, mi voluntad, para que realice, edifique mi casa sagrada que le pido. Y bien, de nuevo dile de qué modo yo, personalmente, la siempre Virgen Santa María, yo, que soy la Madre de Dios, te envío a ti como mi mensajero.” NMEsp, p. 216, nn. 58-62. English translation: NMEng, pp. 175-176, nos.58-62.

[5] Mt 11, 29-30.

[6] Cf. Mt 16, 24; Mk 8, 34; Lk 9, 23.

[7] 1 Cor 1, 26-29.

[8] 1 Cor 1, 30-31.