A Reflection on Juan Diego

Today I am going to do something out of the ordinary and talk about a Gospel Reading that we didn’t read today.  In the gospel of Luke, we read:  And to another [Jesus] said, ‘Follow me.’  But [the man] replied, ‘(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father.’  But [Jesus} answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a light burden to me.

When this is the daily reading the person in my position has to—at some point—get up here and say that we shouldn’t take Jesus literally.  And I have to confess, whenever I’ve been the person sitting in the pews and I’ve heard, “No, Jesus didn’t mean it that way,” I sometimes wonder if the priest is just trying to soften things up so as to not upset too many people.  I wonder if the path of Jesus IS AS rigid as it sounds and if there really is little room for error.   I’ve wondered if the yoke really is easy and the burden light… but then I encountered a story which has shown me why this is so.

Next week we will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe… but today we celebrate the humble servant who encountered her, Saint Juan Diego.   As the story goes, the poor laborer encountered the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill as he was walking one day.  She asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site.  The bishop was skeptical, so he asked Juan to bring proof of the Lady’s identity.  We know the rest of the story; Juan went back to the bishop, roses fell out of his tilma, and the image of Our Lady was discovered.  The church was built and continues to be a place of pilgrimage in Mexico to this day.

But let’s back up to a point before Juan made his famous visit to the bishop.  Before Juan could go back to Our Lady after his first visit with the bishop, he found out his uncle was dying. Hurrying to get a priest, Juan missed his meeting with Our Lady.  The Lady, however, met him on his path and told him that his uncle had been restored to health.  Even though Juan made a specific decision to take care of the needs of his uncle instead of meeting Our Lady.  But instead of punishing Juan, Our Lady rewarded him by curing his uncle.

Sometimes it can be easy to get carried away with the things we hear and the rules we read… to the point where we can forget that at the end of the day our faith is about having a relationship with God, a God who in turn has a loving relationship with us.    And if we go about that relationship with an honest heart—as did Juan Diego—we are going to discover the yoke Jesus is talking about is easy and the burden light.  We are all going to find that God will be helping us live out that relationship as much if not more as we could ever do on our own.

Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.