Sunday, December 11, 2016


Homily for December 12th, 2016. Luke 1:26-38

          Fourteen days before Christmas you come to Mass, and what do you hear? The story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, telling her that she is to be the mother of God’s Son. What’s going on?

What’s going on is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On December 9th, 1531 a Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, encountered a girl at the hill of Tepeyac who told him to go to the archbishop of nearby Mexico City and ask him to build a shrine there in her honor. Recognizing that the girl was Mary, Juan Diego went to the archbishop and placed Mary’s request before him. Go back to Tepeyac, the archbishop told Juan Diego, and if the girl appears again, tell her I must have some sign to authenticate her request.

Three days later the girl reappeared and told Juan Diego to gather some roses, put them in his cloak, and take them to the archbishop. Although it was cold and long past the time of roses, Juan Diego found plenty of roses atop the normally barren hill. He filled his cloak with them and returned to the archbishop. When he opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing on the inside of the cloak an image of Mary. The image survives today, enshrined in the great church of Guadalupe, at the edge of Mexico City. It is the most visited Marian shrine in the whole world. Despite extensive examinations of the image, there is no scientific explanation of how it was produced or how it has survived intact for almost five centuries..

Nor has there ever been any explanation of how Mary, while still a virgin, conceived the baby boy whose birth we shall celebrate in just 14 days. When Mary herself asked the angel Gabriel who brought her this astounding news how such a thing was possible, she received simply the words: “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Some thirty-three years later (according to the traditional dating), her Son experienced something no less impossible than his virginal conception. On the third day after his public death by crucifixion, his tomb was found empty, and he started to appear to those who had loved him before. Jesus is not a dead hero from the past. He is our risen and glorified Lord, alive forevermore, holding in his hand the keys of death. He waits for each one of us at the end of life’s road, to lead us to the place he has gone ahead to prepare for us. There we shall experience not just joy, but ecstasy –for we shall see God face to face!