Today in Mexico and Central America we celebrate the feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, Guatemala, a shrine I have visited twice.
As I began writing this morning I heard a bus stopping by the school and went out to see what was happening. Sixty-seven people from Plan Grande are going to the shrine of the Black Christ in Quezalica, not too far from here. I’ve never been there but will probably go this year – since the church has been designated as one of the pilgrimage sites for the Jubilee of Mercy.
There is another shrine of the Black Christ in the diocese, in the city of Intibucá. I was able to see the image up close this past June during the diocesan youth assembly.
I vaguely recall that in El Salvador today is the celebration of El Cristo de las Misericordias, Christ of the Mercies.
I don’t know the full details of the stories of the many images of the Black Christ in Mexico and Central America (and in other parts of the world), but I do recall that there are images of the Black Madonna in Europe, mostly in France but including the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland.
Yet in many churches here in Honduras the images of Jesus and Mary are more like white Caucasians than ancient middle eastern Jews. I have even seen images of a white Lady of Guadalupe – who left her image on Juan Diego’s tilma as a morena, dark-skinned indigenous woman. Note this image of Christ the King made for the feast day in Dolores, Copán, in 2014.
So often we have domesticated Jesus, making him more like a white, northern European, than the Semite that he was. We make Jesus in our own image and likeness.
Today is a good day to recall that Jesus is God incarnate in our history, in a specific time and place, and that he comes identified with the poor and the outcast.
Jesus Christ, born among us, let us recognize you so that we can recall your mercy in coming among us as a poor human.