By Sister María Elena Anto
The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Americas in Mexico in 1531, at the start of the era of evangelization, changed the course of our history and has had a lasting impact on our hearts. She comes to our aid, remains at our side, accompanies us and guides us to our encounter with Christ. She appeared as one of the people, accepting us as we accept her. “La Morenita” is one of us.
The Virgin Mary has always had a very special relationship with the people throughout Our America. We have all experienced this advocacy of Mary in our pilgrimage as faithful followers of Jesus.
The Virgin Mary agreed to accompany a new group of people, helping them cleave to her son’s heart and to instill in their hearts a faith in Christ. Her approach and apparition before Juan Diego motivated him to accept the mission she asked of him; he felt in his heart that something great had been bestowed on his people.
This is the encounter that led our ancestors to accept the message of Jesus, from which a new culture emerged, one that continues to accept the message of faith that our “Virgen Morena” brought to these lands.
The Virgin said to Juan Diego: “Listen and understand, my littlest son, let nothing frighten and afflict you or trouble your heart … Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow? Am I not your health? Are you not by chance held in my mantle?” Today, these words are even more relevant because of this life-threatening global pandemic we are facing.
The pandemic reminds us how fragile we are. This virus is capable of taking our lives, and it is showing us that, because of immense inequalities, healthcare does not reach everyone, increasing the risk of those in greatest need. We feel vulnerable and frightened. “Am I not here, I, who am your mother?” These words help us to have hope, faith and strength. God hears the cry of his people; he is present with the Virgin of Guadalupe, sustaining us and giving us his unconditional love in the person of Christ. And just as the Virgin stays with us and sustains us, we have to do the same for each other.
“I am the mother of the inhabitants of these lands and of all those who come to me,” she reminds us. She walks with us, but also reaches out to all those who need her most. She continues to ask us to do the same: to love each person—the immigrant, the disabled, the poor, the orphan, the widow, the unemployed, those who are different, with faces reflecting stories of pain, joys and hopes, those who we see during our daily routines. Our response to this situation, how we approach it, will depend on how we express ourselves as Christians, followers of Christ.
By her image appearing on Juan Diego’s poncho, she linked her life, her heart, her soul to our simple and humble people, demonstrating her presence among us, so that when we contemplate her, we hear her message: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother?”