Reading 1: Baruch: 5:1-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Reading 2: Philippians: 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke: 3:1-6
Although I first saw the Mexican film Guadalupe (dir. Santiago Parra, 2006) more than a decade ago, a pivotal scene still plays in my mind as vividly as it did on that first viewing. The focus is on Juana—sublimely portrayed by actor Angélica Aragón—a middle-aged, Indigenous Mexican housekeeper with a dignified posture and a warm face seemingly lit by the embers of ancient wisdom. Assuming the role of cultural exegete, she engages in a passionate religious-aesthetic analysis of a stained-glass image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging on the kitchen wall. Her audience: two young archeologists visiting from Spain.
There’s a lot to say about a symbolic postcolonial reversal here. The 17th century manuscript Nican Mopohua (“Here It Is Told”) relates a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary before a simple Nahua man by the name of Juan Diego (meaningfully, “Juana” is the feminine form of Juan) in 1531, in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. It is telling that the Virgin in the apparition has Indigenous features and speaks in Nahuatl, the native language. Clearly, she is uno de ellos, “one of them.” I draw attention to Juana’s inspirited, modern interpretation of the image:
A message from Heaven… just as the big book from the Mayans had predicted it. There it said that God promised that one of ours, a woman, would bring back the smile on our faces, would take away the burden from our shoulders so we could climb the steepest mountain, and then we could have a fiesta for days and days! A sign appeared… a divine sign from Heaven itself. A woman whose grandeur is greater than all of the Emperors put together. How grand her power must have been that she stood in front of the sun! The sun, giver of life! Look at her on top of the moon… she’s our ally to understand light… This woman’s face is telling us that there’s something bigger than her.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the Mexican inculturated image of the mother of Jesus, is birthing news that is truly good. The Reign of God will finally come home to an oppressed and wounded community; they are about to re-claim their authentic identity, innate dignity, and their right to be the artisans of their own destinies. God’s fiesta has begun!
Today, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe coincides with the Third Sunday of Advent. In the Lukan gospel, John the Baptist testifies to the light, he is the harbinger of news that is truly good. Jesus, who is far greater than John, is coming to establish God’s Reign of justice, reconciliation, and abundance.
The living word of today’s gospel and the life-affirming message of Guadalupe enkindle us to serve in personal and organized ministries that promote a fuller humanity, especially for refugees, immigrants, and Indigenous peoples, who continue to bear the stigmata of colonization and slavery in lopsided social structures they neither sought nor requested. For them, it is imperative that the good news comes closer to home.
In this present moment that is rife with challenges and contradictions, we can still together begin, prophetically, to proclaim in word and deed: God’s fiesta has begun!
Br. Antonio Sison, CPPS
Professor of Systematic Theology and Vatican Council II Chair of Theology