FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE ON DECEMBER 12, 2019 (R. 1: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Responsorial Psalm: Judith 13:18bcde, 19; Gospel: Luke 1: 39- 47)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
BUT WHO AM I!
But who am I? Who am I to be given this great honor? I do not have the credentials, I have no college education, I am from a poor family, I am from a minority tribe, yet this honor has come to me? Who am I? Such was the sentiment of this humble and beautiful Virgin of Nazareth when the Angel Gabriel broke the news to her that she was going to be the Mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world. That was the cake, but there was also the icing on the cake, she was told that her older cousin Elizabeth who had passed the age of giving birth was already six months pregnant. Too much good news for such a tender lady, she ran in haste from Nazareth to Hebron, a journey of about 81 miles (130 kilometers) to see her cousin. When she arrived, filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth could tell that was no longer the little cousin she used to know; there before her, was the prospective Mother of the Savior of the World, and so she exclaimed, “Who am I to be visited by the Mother of My Lord?” Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” She went on to say, “[God] has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” And that seems to be the pattern; that seems to be how God operates, he casts down the mighty, and he uplifts the lowly. God seems to visit more of those who say, “Who am I?” than those who say, “I am the best.”
History was again repeated in 1531, ten years after the conquest of Mexico City when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian young man, Juan Diego. Like Mary in the past, Like Elizabeth in the past, Juan Diego also felt like, “But who am I to be given this honor?” The indigenous Indians were under Spanish Colonial Rule. Juan Diego was on his way to the Bishop’s Palace to receive instructions in the Christian faith; you may call it RCIA or Catechism class when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him. Mary commanded him to tell the bishop to construct a temple on Tepeyac from where she would extend her love and protection to all her people. Juan Diego pleaded with the Lady to send someone else “Because, for sure, I am a meager peasant, a cord, a little ladder, the people’s excrement, I am a leaf.”
The story of Juan Diego brings out something about how God operates, that is, God has a special preference for the poor. At this time, the Spaniards had conquered the Indigenous people, the Virgin did not come to the ruling class, she came to the oppressed, the Indian who is nothing. The tables have been turned, the Indian who had been conquered by the Spanish is now the most beloved child of the Virgin, and by implication, of God. The Virgin commanded the chapel to be built, not in the capital city where the Bishop and the Spaniards resided, but on Tepeyac for God prefers to reside with the poor and the humble. This is not because God hates the rich, it is simply because the rich come to God full of themselves, so there is no space for God to enter and bless them, while the poor come to God empty of themselves, so there is space for God to bless them. Being rich or poor in this context is not determined by how much you have, but your attitude towards what you have; it is not how much you possess but how much you are possessed by your possession. Juan Diego was on this way to receive instructions on the faith from the Spanish Bishop, but here, the Virgin sends him to the Spanish Bishop not to receive instructions, but to give instructions, it is now the Bishop and not Juan Diego who needs conversion. But who am I?
The story of Juan Diego is also your story, it is also my story. There are times we feel inadequate, we feel we are nobodies because society has defined us so. The society says people like us cannot go to school, people like us cannot become directors, nurses, doctors, priests, etc. Sometimes, even in our families, we may be counted as the bad ones that nothing good can come out from. Do not be angry when people refer to you as a “nobody,” rejoice instead, because by so doing, they are calling God’s attention to you. If you are still asking yourself the question, “Who am I?” I just want to tell you today that it is not about who you are, it is about the one who is in you, and that is your God. He is beyond definition, he is unstoppable, it does not matter what the world says about you when he blesses you, no one can curse you. Remember, God does not call the qualified, He qualifies those he calls. It doesn’t matter what your past has been, God is a God of second chances, give him another chance, give yourself another chance. You are like a book, do not give up yet, God is still writing, wait until he gets to the last page. It is not about what you can do, it is about what you let God do through you; and “With God, all things are possible!”