December 12, 2016 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Homily originally delivered at a school Mass in 2013:
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled (Luke 1:46)
Each time we celebrate one of Mary’s feast days, we point out her willingness to say, “Yes” to what was being asked of her. I’m sure she felt alone and scared. Her mind must have been racing, yet she didn’t waver in her response. Her faith allowed her to say, “Yes!”
The story does not end with her “Yes.” That response was only the beginning. Because she said, “Yes,” Jesus came into the world, built a foundation for the Church, and opened up the path to eternal life. That was a powerful “Yes” with an incredible impact.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to Juan Diego in 1531 is another story of a powerful “Yes.” Juan’s faith allowed him to accept what he saw, trust in the words Mary spoke, and act on them – not once, but three times. Because he followed Mary’s instructions, and persevered in taking the message to the local Bishop, a miraculous event took place. The miracle in turn led to over 9 million people converting to Christianity – something missionaries had been unable to accomplish in hundreds of years prior. The combination of faith and action allowed one man to make a huge difference in the world. Juan Diego was canonized as a saint in 2002.
The feeling we have after reading scripture or hearing about the lives of saints often leaves us asking, “What does this have to do with us?”
Angels aren’t waking us up at night to tell us to do something. Mary isn’t interrupting our walk to give us orders. But God is calling us to action. We see a situation and know in our hearts that we are called to action. Fear, the feeling that we are unworthy, or lack of faith keeps us from doing anything about it. Our chance to make an impact dies.
If Mary and Juan Diego had not said, “Yes” and acted, then they basically would have just been seeing things.
An excuse we like to use is to say, “I am just one person, what good can one person do?” Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Pope Francis…maybe you have heard of them. They are all individuals who made or are making an impact on the world by saying “Yes.”
But maybe you haven’t heard of Scott Strode, who opened up a gym and offered free athletic activities to people addicted to drugs and alcohol. (CNN.com)
Nancy Zuch, who started a pre-school program for children battling cancer. (CNN.com)
Iraq War veteran Jake Wood, who started a non-profit that brings military veterans together to help communities hit by natural disasters. (CNN.com)
Katie, age 10, has rallied hundreds of people in her town in South Carolina to help her create vegetable gardens to feed the hungry. How did she begin? As a third grader, she raised a tiny seedling into a huge 40-pound cabbage. When she saw how many people that cabbage fed at a local soup kitchen, she decided that she could do more. So far, she has donated more than 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to people in need. (tabarron.com)
Shifra, age 16, realized that many people in New York City weren’t able to repair their own clothes, and that this hampered every aspect of their lives. She also realized that she could use her passion for sewing to help. So she volunteered for several years at a local soup kitchen, repairing pants, mending coats, fixing tote bags, and sewing buttons on clothes. Now people in the neighborhood call her the Sewing Lady. (tabarron.com)
Anthony, age 12, created “Heavenly Hats” which has provided over 10,000 new hats to people who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy and other medical treatments. He started this project when his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair, motivating him to make her a hat to lift her spirits. Now, from his home in Wisconsin, he distributes hats donated from people around the world. (tabarron.com)
There are hundreds of thousands of other stories about people making a difference – people who took a leap of faith in order to help others. They were young people, old people, former addicts, and cancer survivors. It is unlikely that any of these people saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary or were awakened from their sleep by an angel. They were people who saw a need, were moved to do something about it, and acted.
If your stomach churns or your heart races when you see a person in need, that might be your call. Pray and take a leap of faith.