Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Roses in the Winter

Today is the feast day of St. Juan Diego. Appropriately, this Friday, December 12th is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have to admit that when it comes to the image of Mary that I connect with, Our Lady of Guadalupe has never been at the top of my list, but lately, it has been growing on me!

In case you aren't familiar with the story of Juan Diego, I'll give you the lightning-round version. Dec 9th, 1531, just outside of Mexico City on Tepeyac Hill, 57-year-old Juan Diego was walking to Mass to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception when he heard music playing and saw a beautiful woman. She called out to him, "Juanito". She told him to go to Bishop Zumarraga and tell him she wanted a church built on that site. He followed orders, told the bishop about his encounter with the Blessed Mother and the bishop said he'd reflect on it. Juan Diego returned to the site and Mary instructed him to try again.

The bishop listened again, still did not comply but asked for proof from Juan Diego that it was indeed the Blessed Mother he was speaking with. Cutting to the chase - Mary instructed Juan Diego to go to the top of the mountain and pick some flowers. The top of this mountain was dry and while cactus could be found, no flowers would grow there. Yet, Juan Diego found roses that are foreign to Mexico. He gathered them in his tilma, a garment like a poncho. He brought them to Mary who arranged them and said to take them to the bishop. He returned to the bishop (it's now December 12th) opened the tilma and not only did the bishop see all the beautiful and rare roses, but also the image of Mary we now know as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church was built by Christmas! Talk about fast construction!

What I love about this encounter is the unlikelihood or even the impossibility that the roses would be found at that place, at that time. Not only was it December, but these roses didn't grow in that part of the country at any time of the year. It was an unexpected sign of the presence of God.

As women, we like to plan. We HAVE to plan! We know how we want things to unfold. We think we know what's best. And if life is not going as smoothly as we want, we wonder where God is and why He isn't hearing our prayers.

God, I didn't expect my child to get sick. I didn't plan for my marriage to crumble. This job loss was not the way I saw things playing out. I'm feeling lost and alone. Where are you? What are you doing with me?

But in Isaiah 40 verse 3 we read, "A voice cries out: In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!" Note the punctuation. The voice is not crying out in the wilderness. The voice is proclaiming TO cry out while in the wilderness.

When you're feeling dry in your faith, alone in your marriage, overwhelmed by your obligations, unsure of your job as a mom - cry out to God for blessings. Those that come in the difficult, arid times are such precious gifts and when you can share with others how GREAT God is while you are in the thick of it, that is a powerful witness.