Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prayers for today: The Lord is coming and will not delay; he will bring every hidden thing to light and reveal himself to every nation. Hab 2:3; I Cor 4:5

All-powerful Father, we await the healing power of Christ your Son.
Let us not be discouraged by our weaknesses as we prepare for his coming.
Keep us steadfast in your love.We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

St. Juan Diego (1474-1548)

Thousands of people gathered in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe July 31, 2002, for the canonization of Juan Diego, to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in the 16th century. Pope John Paul II celebrated the ceremony at which the poor Indian peasant became the Church’s first saint indigenous to the Americas. The Holy Father called the new saint “a simple, humble Indian” who accepted Christianity without giving up his identity as an Indian. “In praising the Indian Juan Diego, I want to express to all of you the closeness of the church and the pope, embracing you with love and encouraging you to overcome with hope the difficult times you are going through,” John Paul said. Among the thousands present for the event were members of Mexico’s 64 indigenous groups. First called Cuauhtlatohuac (“The eagle who speaks”), Juan Diego’s name is forever linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe because it was to him that she first appeared at Tepeyac hill on December 9, 1531. The most famous part of his story is told in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). After the roses gathered in his tilma were transformed into the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, however, little more is said about Juan Diego. In time he lived near the shrine constructed at Tepeyac, revered as a holy, unselfish and compassionate catechist who taught by word and especially by example. During his 1990 pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope John Paul II confirmed the long-standing liturgical cult in honour of Juan Diego, beatifying him. Twelve years later he was proclaimed a saint.

God counted on Juan Diego to play a humble yet huge role in bringing the Good News to the peoples of Mexico. Overcoming his own fear and the doubts of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, Juan Diego cooperated with God’s grace in showing his people that the Good News of Jesus is for everyone. Pope John Paul II used the occasion of this beatification to urge Mexican lay men and women to assume their responsibilities for passing on the Good News and witnessing to it.
“Similar to ancient biblical personages who were collective representations of all the people, we could say that Juan Diego represents all the indigenous peoples who accepted the Gospel of Jesus, thanks to the maternal aid of Mary, who is always inseparable from the manifestation of her Son and the spread of the Church, as was her presence among the Apostles on the day of Pentecost” (Pope John Paul II, beatification homily).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 11.28-30)

Jesus said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Go to Christ!
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

There are many who see no meaning in life except what this life can offer. If this life offers little, then life is almost meaningless. A person is wracked with physical debility brought on by, say, cancer or some powerful stroke. All that faces him is complete dependence on others for care, and scarcely a moment’s true rest. If only his life would end! There is nothing for him to live for, so he thinks and so his friends think. His life is his and not someone else’s — so why ought he not be free to end it and so attain the peace of death and oblivion? Such are the thoughts of those who see no meaning in life except what this life offers. Alternatively, it is discovered that the child soon to be born is afflicted with a terrible set of deficiencies which will pose a tremendous burden of care on his parents and for his part set the course for a life of continual dependence on others. His “quality of life” will be, it is perceived, absolutely minimal. Or again, great numbers in an African country wracked by ethnic strife and mayhem are bereft of food, shelter, lodging and medical care. Families are torn asunder by death and pillage. There is no end to the grief and deprivation. What is each person to do? The instances of evil and suffering could be narrated endlessly. It is a beautiful world, but with good reason one could say that it a very ugly world. Now, it is one thing to point to the cause of this, and it is a further thing to point to the answer to it. On the one hand, the causes of human suffering are both immediate and ultimate. The more immediate causes can be discussed at length and should be sought. The ultimate cause, revealed by God, is the sin of man, both original and personal. On the other hand, the answer to evil and suffering is also immediate and ultimate. The immediate answers involve the generous service of those suffering on many fronts. The ultimate answer introduces our Gospel passage today. The ultimate answer to evil and suffering is the person of Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to be its Saviour. He is the ultimate answer to the pain of the world.

What does Christ say to the one who is weary and burdened with the sufferings of life? Our Gospel passage today gives us his words. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30). This is no slick and quick answer and it will not satisfy the one who is not interested in Christ. Our Lord, though, addresses “all you who are weary and burdened.” He addresses every man and woman of human history who experiences the weariness of our broken world. Who else in human history has had the audacity to propose himself as the answer to the suffering of the world? But that is exactly what Christ does. He says to you, to me, to every one we happen to know, and to all men and women of every generation — saying it to them in all their personal individuality and not just en masse — Come to me! He promises that if we do, if we truly come to him as our Saviour, then we shall find rest. But notice what he says is involved in coming to him. It means coming to him and taking up his yoke and learning from him. It means embracing his person and his teaching in true faith and obedience. It means throwing in our lot entirely with him and, in faith, accepting the path of true discipleship. It means striving to be like the Master, who is gentle and humble of heart. He promises that if we do this we shall find rest — rest at the deepest level, rest for our souls. It is the soul of man that above all must have rest. If there is no rest in the soul of man, then all the material satisfactions of life, all the health and wealth of the world will leave him still suffering. If he has attained a profound rest of soul then all the material sufferings of life will be supportable. The pressing need for man is rest of soul. Christ assures all mankind that if they come to him and take up his yoke, learning from him, then he will give that rest of soul for which the heart of man constantly yearns. We were made to attain happiness and Christ reveals that he is the path to it.

Pope Benedict once wrote that the atheist or agnostic ought try to live as if God exists, even if he does not yet have this belief. We might take the suggestion further and say to the one who is suffering and who cannot see where the way ahead lies, Give Christ a go! Go to him. He says to each of us, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. But let us not go to him in a superficial manner, with our hearts still far from him. Give Christ a go! Cast in your lot with him and be part of his company. Those who have done this have attained rest of soul in the midst of terrible suffering. Moreover, he promises that at the very end, all suffering anyhow will pass away, every tear will have gone. Christ is the only Saviour of the world.

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