“The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
The story of Guadalupe features an Indian man 10 years after the Spanish conquest of southern Mexico, who encounters the Virgin. She sends him to the Spanish bishop to ask for a church to be built where she stands. As an Indian, he hardly has the social capital to talk to the bishop like that, and the bishop initially resists, but in the end, a miracle is wrought and the church is built. Over 500 years later the stone building still attracts thousands of pilgrims daily. It is not large or impressively decorated. It seems to gather up in its stones the memories of an encounter that stands society on its head.
The above passage refers to God’s chosen messenger who will establish just rule in Israel once more. In our day, perhaps we can see that messenger as the Indian man who obeyed the command of the Lady and forever colored the Hispanic experience of the faith. Battling against unjust social structures in the church, he nevertheless delivers the message and the church is built. The story still inspires people of indigenous and mixed-blood in Latin America. “If God talks to us through the divine mother and brings justice, we have hope.”
It remains to the powerful to surrender to the work of God and follow along. I am a white, male, American citizen. I am powerful. Like the bishop’s initial reaction, I can pull what I have to my bosom, fending off any who would chip away at it, or I can bend the power I have to serve what God is doing among powerless people. The story of Guadalupe places hope before the powerless and a challenge before the powerful.
Be present with your people, O God of liberation, and give us the strength to follow Juan Diego’s vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe to bend earthly power to the service of your Kingdom, through him who liberates us, your Son, our Lord who with you and the Holy Spirit, live and reign in glory everlasting. Amen.
-The Rev. Paul Moore