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Wednesday May 23, 2018
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A Ti

Homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 2016
for Our Lady of the Desert Parish, Mattawa

Haz clic aquí para leer la homilia predicada en español en la Catedral de San Pablo

Zechariah 2:14-17; Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; Luke 1:26-38

Most Reverend Joseph J. Tyson, Bishop of Yakima

“A ti.” These two words given to San Juan Diego by our Lady of Guadalupe are the interpretative key for understand the particular context for our own celebration tonight here at Our Lady of the Desert in Mattawa.  “A ti.”

Allow me to back up a bit.  You all know the story well enough.  Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to San Juan Diego – a poor Nahuatl native – and tells him to go to the bishop and tell the bishop to construct a church where he and his people may know of her “love, compassion and mercy.”  But Juan Diego is on his way to attend to a very sick uncle.  While he listens to the command of this unusual and beautiful apparition, he can scarcely believe she would deign to appear to him – lowly as he is.  He attends to his sick uncle and returns home. 

The next day he is still reflecting on this image even as he prepares to return for a second visit.  He decides to go a different route. He had not absorbed the first message and really didn’t want to encounter her again.  But on this second pathway to his sick uncle’s house, she appears to him again with the very same message: to go tell the bishop to construct a church where he and his people may know of her “love, compassion and mercy.” 

With this second message, San Juan Diego musters the courage to respond. He tells her that he is a lowly peasant. “No soy nada más que una escalería de tabla,” he tells her. “I am nothing more than a sidewalk.”  He’d rather have her send someone more important, more intelligent, better educated. How does she respond to his doubt and fear? "Mi hijito, el más pequeño, hay muchos a quienes puedo enviar. Pero yo te he elegido a ti." “A ti!” “Yo te he elegido a ti.”  “My Little son, there are many I could send. But I have chosen you. You! I have chosen you.”

As bishop I remind you of these words precisely because I know that during this election campaign none of you felt very chosen.  Indeed, I am painfully aware, that these last few months have been exceptionally difficult for you because what you heard often in the media were lies, distortions and racist language.

I only would join my sentiments with those of our Holy Father, Pope Francis who – when asked by a journalist about the recent general election responded: “I do not pass judgment on people and politicians, I simply want to understand the suffering that their approach causes the poor and excluded.”

In light of the Holy Father’s comments this is why we look to Mary. There she stands and we – with San Juan Diego – we take in her words to him as words spoken to us: “A ti!” “Yo te he eligido a ti.”

How can she say this to him? And how can these “chosen” words possible apply to us? Because she – Our Lady of Guadalupe – she has also been chosen. 

Note well: There are many apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary around the world: Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of the Snow just to name a few.  But what marks our Lady of Guadalupe as unique is she is the only apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to appear fully pregnant and about to give birth to Jesus: God-in-the-flesh.

As such, in appearing to the poor native Nahuatl San Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of both the undocumented and the unborn.  She points us to how God comes into the world for God comes into this world – not in a royal palace – but in an animal stable.  God arrives – not with a military guard – but with a “strata” of angels – “strata” being the Greek word for army – literally God arrives with an army of angels.  God hold court – not with the wealthy of the world – but with the shepherds of the field – the lowest and most outcast of first century society.  God comes – not as a powerful ruler – but as a little vulnerable infant.  God comes – not into a landed family – but a family in search of shelter.  God comes to a family – uncounted and undocumented during the time of a census.  And as the story unfolds we discover Jesus living in a refugee family migrating and on the move.

Those details are all about to unfold in this pregnant apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to San Juan Diego and it is those very same details that ought to give you true knowledge of just how close God is to you right now – not despite your current social condition – but precisely because of it.

Allow your hearts and minds to absorb the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego as your own:  "Mi hijito, el más pequeño, hay muchos a quienes puedo enviar. Pero yo te he elegido a ti."

Live those words as your very own: Replace fear of the migra with trust in God. Turn racism into social harmony.  Replace words of hate and exclusion you have heard this last year with words of justice and love embedded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Go out of your way to welcome white English speaking people into your homes. Remember here in Mattawa we’ve gone from 500 people to 5000 people in ten years (and where only 156 people voted in the last local election, most likely due to documentation and citizenship questions). Like many in our smaller towns across the Diocese of Yakima, those who speak English didn’t chose to immigrate yet being outnumbered they can feel like foreigners in their own country.  Show them your love.  Invite them to your meals.  Teach them how to eat posole! Return good for evil.

God has chosen you to love them.  In a world that wants to build walls, like San Juan Diego your message to them is that you’re here to build a basilica – not so much a physical basilica – but a basilica of faith founded on the rock of Peter in union with the Holy Father in Rome and united with 2 billion believers of every race, language and culture all around the world.  You are here to renew their faith to be the salsa verde in their spiritual life and to season the Catholic Church in America with your fervor and enthusiasm for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“A ti.” “Yo te he eligido a ti.”  I hope these words are words you hear from me too. I chose you tonight because I love you and care about you.  I chose to come to Mattawa tonight because you are very close to my heart as well as the heart of the Holy Father who has spoken so eloquently about the plight of migrants and refugees. I am grateful for being chosen as bishop in Yakima. I am bishop in the Cathedral where I was baptized and I am in the diocese where I was born but when I was born Spanish was not the majority language among Catholics.  Now it is and I’ve come a missionary in the land of my birth. 

So I thank you for being here.  I thank you for becoming missionaries to all of us here in the United States.  I thank you for blessing us with so many children and youth.  I thank you for listening to the call of Jesus Christ in this his One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  I thank you for heeding the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego and taking them as your words of guidance this night: "Mi hijito, el más pequeño, hay muchos a quienes puedo enviar. Pero yo te he elegido a ti."