Our Lady of Guadalupe Helps Us to Receive God’s Word – by Dr. Francisco Castillo

In the liturgical calendar, the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated as a solemnity in Mexico, South and Central America and many other countries. This celebration is of great importance because Our Lady of Guadalupe, or La Morenita, meaning “little dark one,” as she is affectionately called, has allowed many indigenous peoples to identify with her and her message. The Church recognizes that in 1531, Mary appeared to Juan Diego dressed as an Aztec princess, with dark hair and olive skin. In communicating her appearance, thus, she restored dignity to the Aztec people of Mexico after they had suffered and endured many years of inhumane European colonization.

The image of the Virgin Mary surrounded with Aztec symbols, her appearance in that historical context, and the fact that she approached Saint Juan Diego in his native indigenous language, clearly express her desire to communicate God’s love and concern for those who were suffering. A reflection on this significant event in the life of faith of the people of Mexico is offered in RCL Benziger’s bilingual basal program, Sean mis discípulos Catechist Guide for Grade 4. Catechists are asked to reflect with their students on the significance of Mary’s choice of seeking Juan Diego, a poor indigenous man in the hills of the Mexican countryside, and the effect this had on the reception of the Christian faith among the natives of Mexico and Central America.

Concerns of racial and ethnic identity are significant in the process of communicating any kind of message. Transmitting information effectively means first establishing and building stable and permanent relationships. In this sense, in XVI Century Mexico, Mary was following God’s example of communicating the message of salvation to the world. God’s desire has always been to bring humanity back to full communion with him and one another. From the moment that sin entered the world and the human race turned its back on God, God has not ceased to stretch his hand toward us. In an attempt to establish a lasting and stable relationship, the Covenant, God has sent his people prophets to remind us of his love and to call us back to communion with him. Yet, humanity has historically rejected that call, as if God’s message was being lost or misunderstood.

The Incarnation of Christ radically changed this. Through the Mystery of the Incarnation, God becomes man, a human being who walks the earth and speaks our language. In the letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (4:4-6).

The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which falls within the Holy Season of Advent, proves to be a perfect opportunity for us to reflect on Mary’s role in bringing forth God’s Word to the world. Just like Mary prepared for the birth of her child two thousand years ago, she also prepared the peoples of the Americas in the New World to welcome and receive God’s Word.

Francisco Castillo is the Senior Editor, Multicultural Specialist for RCL Benziger.

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Advent, 2015 – by Scott Rutan

At the end of their annual Passover dinner, our Jewish brothers and sisters exclaim, “Next year, Jerusalem!” This is not a wish for a change in venue, but rather a bold prayer that the next Passover will be the Final One – the one that is celebrated in the fullness of God’s Reign, in the fullness of God’s Presence.

We Catholics have a similar prayer: “Come, O Come Emmanuel!” It is a prayer we invoke every Advent, that our Lord Jesus come once again in power, might, and glory, and bring about the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We experience glimpses of this Kingdom already, at Mass, in the Sacraments, in ordinary family life, in loving service to our neighbors in need, and in other similar, graced moments.

The thing is, we so often forget this, don’t we? Because we tend to be a bit too comfortable, we don’t realize that, because we don’t yet live fully in the Kingdom of God, our lives are incomplete. There is a deep restlessness within each heart that can only be healed by Christ’s coming again, both in one’s daily life and into the world.

Advent is that time of year that makes our deep longing for the coming of Emmanuel tangible once again. During Advent, most plants and trees are bare, leaving only the sharp needles on evergreens, which we use to fashion garlands and wreaths. A few candles on the Advent wreath shed more light than we would have thought possible, and create a glow of hope. The darkness of each day envelops us, inviting us to look inward. Overall, there is a sense that something “different” is happening, soon and very soon.

Advent, the start of a new liturgical year, passionately beckons us to come to a new place, a holy place, a darkened place where our Lord will meet us in the stillness.

How might a family or parish become re-connected and re-engaged in this holy season so they might prepare their hearts and minds to meet Jesus once again at Christmas? There are many ways to do this, and you can find wonderful resources to assist in this process at Samples.RCLBenziger.com.

On this Web site, you will find RCL Benziger’s new books, Our Family Prays: Catholic Prayers and Traditions, as well as Catholic Prayers and Practices for Young Disciples. Both resources help families explore Catholic customs and traditions for the Advent season, such as using an Advent wreath at home, blessing and welcoming a new liturgical year, practicing hospitality through Las Posadas, and praying a novena to the Divine Child. Simple yet profound home rituals like these will inspire a deeper understanding of Advent, and strengthen a family’s relationship with the Lord.

May this Advent season be a time for all of us to participate in and prepare for the coming of Emmanuel. Marantha! Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Scott Rutan serves Harrisburg, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton areas in Pennsylvania, along with Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse areas in New York.

From western New York State, he has always been in professional catechetical ministry serving both the parish and diocesan levels for more than 29 years. He and his wife raised two fine, adult sons with their parish’s family education program. This makes Scott passionate about building family engagement in Faith and community with RCL Benziger resources.

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