Hearing the poor

My dear Lady,… this I beg you, entrust your mission to one of the important persons who is well known, respected, and esteemed, so that they may believe him. You know that I am a nobody, a nothing, a coward, a pile of old sticks… You have sent me to walk in places I do not belong. Forgive me and please do not be angry with me, my Lady and Mistress.
St. Juan Diego

 On December 9, 1531, a Christian from the Chichimeca tribe, Juan Diego Cuatitlatoatzin (“the talking eagle”), was called by the Virgin. She told him to go to the bishop and ask that a church be constructed on the hill of Tepeyac.

The bishop was skeptical, to put it mildly. But several days later the Virgin had Juan Diego gather roses in his tilma, his cloak, to show the bishop a sign. But an even more impressive sign was the image of the Virgin imprinted on his tilma, the image we now know as the Virgin of Guadalupe.

“Who would listen to an ‘indio,’ an Indian?” some would say. What can one of those uneducated savages teach us, who have been trained in the schools and churches of Europe?

That message is what Juan Diego seems to have imbibed from the Spanish invaders. It is a message that the poor, especially the rural poor, still receive from much of the world – especially here in Honduras. “You are just an ‘Indio;’ you don’t know anything. Let us tell you what to do and how to do it.”

This message comes not just from foreign institutions; it comes from people in their country, even in the government. A few years ago I read of a Honduras president of Congress who called the people “gente del monte,” which can be variously translated as “hill billies,” “hayseeds,” “people of the weeds.”

But said to say they also sometime get this message from the church. I have heard radical priests denigrate the poor because they don’t understand things.

But the message of the Virgin of Guadalupe is that God speaks to us through the poor. Sometimes those with the least education are those who can show us the wisdom of God.

This is the message of Jesus that we find in the Gospel for the Mass of St. Juan Diego:

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have reveled them to the simple.
Matthew 11: 25

Today, Lord, help me to listen to the little ones, so that I may hear your voice and respond in love, as Juan Diego responded to the call of Your Mother.

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