Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Have You Killed Me?

We are unable to believe the shocking news of the murder of 20 kids, aged 6 and 7, and 6 of their teachers in a school in Connecticut last week. The question of every person murdered by a fellow person is "Why? Why have you murdered me?" But it cries out to God when the murdered are innocent kids. However, the question is much larger in the context of postmodernism. What a group considers a crime, another group considers defense of self. Example: Syria has been in a civil or sectarian war for almost 2 years, depending on your definition of the war in Syria. America and the West generally support Islamists to take over Syria, while Russia supports the president of Syria, Bashar El-Assad. In the meantime many innocent people are being killed from both sides and others are killing more. Hatred begets hatred.
Economically, large businesses swallow small businesses everywhere. Is this not a kind of murder? Military is  also involved in crimes committed by the political establishment such as invasions. But is the military force responsible for orders from their masters?
As legalized abortion continues to kill children in the womb, the so-called human rights code is not protected in North America, nor in Europe.
Who can guide us except the Virgin Mary as she leads people towards her son...This is Christmas. Think of the Virgin Mary who suffered and accepted God's gift, delivered the saviour of the world, and has been a mother of many generations and nations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a Mexican devout Christian named Juan Diego and asked him to get Bishop Zummaraga’s approval to build her a shrine at Tepeyak, a mountainous area where Mexicans lived. When the bishop refused Diego’s request, Mary showed him a place where Spanish-grown roses miraculously grew and flowered and asked him to bring them to the bishop as a sign that she can reproduce the Spanish flowers in Mexico by faith in God.  When the bishop received Diego, Diego simply opened his telma to show him the roses, but then not only did the roses fall before the bishop's eyes but also the image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" was imprinted miraculously on Diego's tilma. Since then a multitude of miracles took place through the intercession of “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The Knights of Columbus and indeed all Catholics of the Americas must thank God for having Our Lady of Guadalupe as their patroness. History of this first Apparition of the Blessed ever-virgin Mary “Mother of the true God” in modern times is significant because it shows how heaven is always on the lookout for the lost sons (Luke 15) - The messenger appeared as a Mexican lady on the hill of Tepeyak, and spoke to Juan Diego in his language. In Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Church found a sign of inculturation which reflects that the Catholic Church is truly catholic i.e. universal (Vatican II; Lumen Gentium, 17).

The title Mary used “ever-virgin Mother of the true God” reminds Christians of the early Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD when the bishops of the world proclaimed her Mother of God above all angels and archangels. And, of course, early devotion to Mary developed in both the Christian East and Christian West. She became fortress of faith and was called since then “Door of Heaven,” and “Morning Star”! So much grew devotion to her in the East that the Eastern Roman Emperor frequently called on her to protect Constantinople against the invaders whether Persians or Turks, and the Byzantine Church until today commemorate her in two long prayers: The Akathyst Prayers and the Paraklesis Prayer every year. In the West, more devotion grew to her heart particularly in the ancient hymn “Hail Mary” and the month-long prayers of the Rosary which make up only a fraction of a wide movement in Catholic pilgrims and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yet, in all of the above movements, the Marian theology is always a call to us to imitate her and “do whatever [Christ] tells you.”(John 2: 5). It appears that Mary’s role in the intercession for the salvation of the world is increasing, not only in ecumenical dialogue between Christian Churches but also in her role for dialogue with non-Christians.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared with stars on her coat. Her name is translated to “Crusher of the serpent’s head”. She is there to bring her seed who will crush the Serpent as written in Genesis 3. The serpent in the Aztecs culture was a symbol of the false god whose mythical power caused millions of native Indians to be sacrificed and killed alive for the sake of the serpent god. This in itself recalls to mind the great sign of heaven in Apocalypse [God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God....Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”] (Revelation 11: 19a; 12: 1-6a; 10 ab) This reading from Apocalypse is a reference to the sign of the woman whose son was destined to rule the nations. This is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, crowned with twelve stars referring to the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of her Son and God. She is clothed with the sun and the moon is under her feet. That is how the Second Eve brought us salvation after the First Eve brought us the curse. The dragon, that is Satan, lured the First Eve into disobedience, and wanted to lead the Second Eve into disobedience too. But Mary, reminds us Luke, said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

When Christians recall Our Lady of Guadalupe, we may wish to remember her fascinating miracles especially the enduring ones such as her image full of references to stars, the Sun and the Moon as well as the fact that the image itself did not deteriorate for over 450 years until today. Not only with the flowers that Bishop Zummaraga had requested and which when delivered miraculously appeared on Diego’s tilma in the presence of the Bishop, nor in the healings that took place with Joan Diego’s sick uncle following the Apparitions, but most significantly in the voluntary baptism of millions of Indian Mexicans who had refused a generation earlier to accept the missionary call to Christianity since they resented invaders attempts to enslave them.

The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation is far more important than merely giving physical birth to Christ. She participates in the Church’s continuing mission of bringing Christ to the world. In the 4th century St. Basil the Great called on Christians to bear Christ and present him to others as the Virgin Mary delivered Christ to the world. In the 20th and 21st centuries Mary’s role became increasingly important. The Second Vatican Council declared her Mother of the Church. Blessed John Paul II consecrated the world to her heart.  The peaceful fall of Communism has been attributed to her intercession.

As violence and threats to Christians continue unabated in Arab countries following the “Arab Spring” Mary’s role is very much needed in the Middle East today.  The apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917 to 3 children in Fatima, Portugal is significant. In his book "The First World Love” Bishop Fulton Sheen shows how the Apparition in Fatima is crucial for developing relationships between Christians and Muslims of the world. Fatima is the name of a Muslim woman venerated in Islam as the daughter of their Prophet Mohammed. In the Qura'n, Mary is considered the most pure creature of humans and next to her is Fatima according to a variant of Hadith. Muslims occupied Portugal for centuries before they were driven out by Catholics. A story about Fatima appears in Fulton Sheen's book: While Muslims were driven out from Portugal, a Catholic young man had fallen in love with a Muslim called Fatima in a little town. She became Catholic to get married to him and out of appreciation, the name of the town was changed to Fatima. While Muslims consider Christians to be infidels, Mary is the one common person who is exalted by both Catholics and Muslims as the most pure creature. Bishop Sheen believed she will play a significant role in the dialogue of Catholics and Muslims and in the end they will come to worship her Son Jesus.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness not only of the Americas but of all people on earth. She leads us to Christ. Through her example, she deserved the acclamation uttered by Gabriel “Hail Mary full of Grace” and her own prophetic word “Behold from now on shall all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1, 48).

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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