We begin every new year fittingly by celebrating Mary’s motherhood – first of Jesus, but also of each one of us who are part of the Body of Christ! As Jesus told St. John from the cross, “behold your mother.” One of my favorite illustrations of Mary’s maternal care is how she interacted and cared for St. Juan Diego and his uncle during the appearances on Tepeyac hill in 1531. Mary is known from these apparitions as “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” I would like to share a few examples of her words to St. Juan Diego. The main point of her message was that Juan Diego was to ask the bishop to build a church on Tepeyac hill, where she was appearing. Mary said in the first apparition,
I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him upon making him manifest, I will give Him to all people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, Him that is my salvation. Because truly I am your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men, those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me.
Juan Diego faithfully transmitted the request to the bishop, but he was dismissed and told to come back another time. Dejected, Juan Diego received another apparition from Mary. He suggested that she send someone else. She said,
Listen, my youngest son, know for sure that I have no lack of servants and 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, 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 Mother of God, sent you as my messenger.
After a second visit to the bishop, he was still not convinced of the authenticity of the apparition. Juan Diego encountered Mary a third time and told her that he needed a sign to be convinced. She told him to return the next day to receive the sign. The day of the fourth apparition, Juan Diego’s plans changed. He had found his uncle gravely ill and spent much of the day bringing a doctor. When it was clear that his uncle was close to death, Juan Diego then went in search of a priest. Mary interrupted his journey with the fourth apparition. She said,
Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your Mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?
In this meeting, Mary arranged various flowers in Juan Diego’s tilma, sending these as the sign for the bishop. Of course, the flowers were not the only sign! Mary’s image appeared on the tilma, which is miraculously still in perfect condition five hundred years later, in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Mary’s maternal love for Juan Diego and all of his people was shown clearly by this series of apparitions. Mary shows this same maternal love for each of us, too! Mary, Mother of God, and our mother, pray for us!