Homily: St. Juan Diego, 2008
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
Memorial of St. Juan Diego
9 December 2008
Our Lady of the Angels Monastery
“God does not will that the little ones be lost.” Our God is passionately in love with souls that He’d do anything to save them, to save them with His own great strength, great power, power to show us how meek and humble He is. And at the same time He willed to use others to help save souls. And His preference is indeed to use humble souls because humble souls reflect Himself who is meek and humble of heart. And particularly He chose our Blessed Mother who is the perfect, humble handmaid of the Lord to evangelize the Indians in the early fifteen hundreds. And I’m not going to go into depth because Father Joseph will have the High Mass this Friday on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But today particularly I can’t help mention a little bit about her because of the connection of who we are celebrating today, Saint Juan Diego.
John Paul named Our Lady of Guadalupe, or Our Lady of the Tepeyac Hill as the ‘Star of Evangelization.’ And the main thing for that title is because of what happened afterwards; so many conversions took place. Before that point there were only baptized infants, and also people who were dying who were baptized. Those in the middle could care less. They had some other pagan gods to worship, etc.
But after the apparitions, thousands of Indians began flocking everyday to the missionary centers seeking baptism. And some priests had to baptize as many as six thousand people a day. And then, in this one particular friary, this one Franciscan missionary, it was recorded that he baptized 14,200 Indians in the course of five days. And then between 1532 and 1538 (Our Lady appeared in 1531) there were about nine million people voluntarily received baptism and other sacraments of the Church. Thus Our Lady’s title ‘Star of Evangelization.’
As I mentioned, today is the memorial of Saint Juan Diego. John Paul II canonized him in 2002 at the end of July. He is the first indigenous Saint of the American continent. He was baptized when he was fifty-one years old along with his maternal uncle, Juan Bernardino, which is where Brother Juan got his name after Juan Bernardino.
Juan Diego was married, but his wife Maria Lucia died without leaving him children. But John Paul II described him as “The simple Indian who contemplated the sweet and serene face of Our Lady of Tepeyac.” He described him as a “just and upright man, a loyal son of the Church, docile to his pastors, a faithful disciple of Jesus, and one who deeply loved the Virgin.” That’s the words of our Holy Father John Paul II.
But just in a nutshell, when I was meditating upon the words of Our Lady in this particular apparition, I was so impressed by the humility of Juan Diego. I mean, just the way he act toward Our Lady and the way Our Lady speak to him, you can tell this is the reason why Our Lady had chosen him because of his humility, because of his humbleness.
The first thing that Our Lady said was: “Where are you going Juan, smallest and dearest of my children?” And then he replied, “I am hurrying to get to Mass to hear the homily.” Then Our Lady said, “I love you my dear, little son.” She kept on calling him — ‘little son.’ These great terms of endearment, but at the same time, I believe because of his humble heart that Our Lady was attracted to. “I love you my dear, little son. I am Mary the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the True God who gives life and protects it. He is the creator of all, Lord of heaven and earth. He is all present. I desire that a church be built on this place.”
You know, just a side note too about Tepeyac hill. I was able to visit this holy site when I was in Mexico. But this particular site used to stand a bunch of ruins of a pagan temple. And this pagan temple was dedicated to the mother of the gods, the pagan gods. So I think it was so awesome that Our Lord sent her there to eliminate this pagan worshiping on Tepeyac hill. And so, I think most of us know the story how Juan Diego went to Bishop Zumarraga, and how he did not believe and he, Juan Diego, got tired and he got disappointed with the failure of his errand. I think this is one thing that Mother would pointed out to us that the Saints have their struggles. This is one particular thing that Juan Diego had his struggle, this disappointment of the bishop not believing his word.
Anyway, so he met Our Lady again in the Tepeyac Hill and then he told her; “The bishop did not believe me.” And this is another gem of his humility in action: “Forgive me if I make so bold as to give you a piece of advice. I am not worthy to be entrusted with such an important errand. Please send someone more suitable since I do not count for anything.” Our Lady replied, “My dear little son, I could send others, but I chose you. Do not be discouraged.” And so we heard again the story, how his uncle, Juan Bernardino was very ill, was dying, that he specifically asked his nephew, Juan Diego, to get a priest so that he could make his last confession and receive his Holy Communion. And this was December twelfth, and as we know too, how he tried to go to the other side of the hill, thinking that Our Lady would not be there, she would be on the other side. But as we know the story, Our Lady was there, waiting for her little son, her dear little son. And so he was kind of surprised. And so trying to hide his embarrassment, Juan Diego said, “My Lady, why did you rise so early?” Why did you rise so early? “Is anything the matter?” And then he said, “Forgive me for not coming yesterday morning to pick up the sign you wished me to take up the bishop. I did not disregard my promise but my uncle is gravely ill and wants me to fetch the priest before he dies.” And we know the story how she encourages Juan Diego not to be afraid. There’s the famous, most tender words of Our Blessed Mother: “Am I not your Mother who takes care of you? Your uncle will recover.” And so she sent him to get the roses.
Again, this is something that was deeply impressed on me, particularly is his humility. God chose Our Lady who is the perfect, humble handmaid of the Lord. And the perfect, humble handmaid of the Lord chose the humblest of her little sons, that is Juan Diego. This why God looked upon Juan Diego, this is why Our Lady must have chosen him. The book of Sirach tells us “God alone is mighty, He is glorified by the humble.” And Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “God chose what is low and despised in the world so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Again, God sent Mary, the Star of Evangelization and she chose Juan Diego, her humblest little son, and God wants to continue to save souls through us, but we have to be humble in order to be effective.