Summary: We can learn much about Truth, Faith and evangelism from the experience of Tepayac and the conversion of the Americas.
Our Lady of Guadalupe 2013
The great scene in Revelation, of the ark of the covenant, the dwelling place of the Holy Name, being revealed, is clearly a tableau of the Virgin Mother, Mary, the new Eve, bringing forth the child Jesus for our salvation. Steve Ray rightly folds today’s Gospel into this tableau. The angel tells her that she will bring forth a king for Israel who will rule forever. Her thoughts must have centered on the reality that she would be the Queen Mother. Her “fiat” would bring about the overturning of a world order of sin, injustice, oppression and death. It would also bring to her a world of hurt, because she knew that the woman who would bear the Messiah would also be the woman whose child would undertake an age-old struggle with the serpent. She would be the New Eve who would always say “yes” to the will of the Father, as her Son would do. And that would come with a life of pain and sorrow.
The little scene on Tepayac hill was actually a microcosm of the revelation at Nazareth. The beautiful lady that Juan Diego saw, we know from the tilma, was pregnant, and she was dark-skinned. The Spanish missionaries had labored pretty much in vain ever since the conquest of Cortez. Mexico was still thoroughly pagan. Converts like Juan Diego were scarce. But the miracle of her apparition, the roses spilled from the tilma, and the impossible image on that rude garment, brought about a revolution of evangelization. The virgin gave birth to a whole renewed and Christianized culture that even the Enlightenment and Freemasonry, and socialism, and Protestant proselytism have not destroyed. In the battle with the serpent, the Virgin and Her Offspring, the King of the universe, continue triumphant.
The great moral writers like Chesterton have realized that, no matter how inconvenient it might be, saying “yes” to God’s will is the only way to live an authentic life. We cannot be united with the Good, the True and the Beautiful without obedience to God’s law. If we disobey, if we think we know better than God, it’s like taking the back off a Rolex and poking it with a pencil to make it run better. That’s what the folks who have legalized abortion and contraception and who are even trying to make us pay for both are doing on a society-wide basis. They are telling us that Truth is relative, that there are no absolutes, and then forcing us to live by what they call “their” truth.
The Popes remind us that this suspicion of absolute Truth comes from our 20th century experience. “This kind of truth [absolute truth] is what was claimed by the great totalitarian movements of the last century, a truth that imposed its own world view in order to crush the actual lives of individuals.” Of course, Naziism, communism, fascism were false doctrines promoted by force by tyrants. Popular opinion is rightly against that falsehood. But it swung in the opposite direction. People reject the very idea of a Truth that is absolutely true for all times, places, and peoples. “In the end, what we are left with is relativism, in which the question of universal truth — and ultimately this means the question of God — is no longer relevant. It would be logical, from this point of view, to attempt to sever the bond between religion and truth, because it seems to lie at the root of fanaticism, which proves oppressive for anyone who does not share the same beliefs.” In our contemporary world, because radical Muslims have read certain Quran passages literally, their violent actions and imposition of Sharia law on territories they control has discredited all religion in the minds of millions.
The Popes continue, “In this regard, though, we can speak of a massive amnesia in our contemporary world. The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path.”
In our Catholic faith, which is summed up in the message of Guadalupe, we can see how absolute Truth and fidelity to God’s Law can still result in diversity of living out the Gospel. The Catholicism of North and South America share the same belief, but live and evangelize in diverse ways. And that is strength, not weakness.