BEFORE THE CROSS | Mary brings us closer to Jesus

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, and three closely related elements of this celebration deserve our attention: Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth 2,000 years ago, Mary's visitation to the people of Mexico in 1531, and Mary's visitation to us today.

The Visitation is an option for the Gospel reading on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As part of the mystery of the Incarnation and pregnant with Jesus, Mary brings the Lord close to Elizabeth. The fruit of this closeness is Elizabeth's recognition and confession of Jesus as Lord, in words that we echo every time we pray the Hail Mary: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" The Visitation brings Jesus closer to Elizabeth in body, and Elizabeth closer to Jesus in faith.

We see the same pattern in Mary's visitation to the people of Mexico in December of 1531. In an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation, Mary's appearance brings the Lord close to the people of Mexico. The beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is filled with symbolic elements that spoke to the native people. For example, Mary is dressed as a native princess. She appears over the sun and the moon, showing that she is more powerful than the Aztec gods; but her head is bowed and her hands are folded in prayer — showing that she isn't a god. And she's pregnant! Mary was speaking to them on the level of understanding and on the level of feeling: I am with you, and there's someone I want you to meet.

What was the fruit of this closeness? From 1531 to 1538, approximately 8 million native Mexicans came to believe in Jesus. In effect, Mexico became a Catholic nation because of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a new place and time, Mary did exactly what she had done at the Visitation: She brought Jesus closer to people, and people closer to Jesus.

What about Mary's visitation now, in our lives? At the time of the biblical Visitation, Mary was nurturing the growth of the physical body of Jesus in her womb. At the time of her visitation as Our Lady of Guadalupe, she was nurturing the growth of the mystical body of Christ — the Church — in the people of Mexico. That's what Mary can do, and wants to do, in our lives: nurture the growth of Christ in us and our growth in Him as members of His body.

The pattern of Mary's activity is the same in all three visitations. And that's how God works in history: always deepening and expanding His gifts. If you need Jesus to be closer to you, or if you want to be closer to Him, let Mary play the role God has given her. She's meant to help.

In 1945, Pope Pius XII declared Mary the patroness of the Americas. May she bring Jesus close to us, and each one of us closer to Jesus.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Appointments

Rev. Thomas M. Robertson, pastor of St. George Parish in St. Louis, is appointed senior associate pastor of both St. George Parish, St. Louis, and St. Dominic Savio Parish, Affton, effective Jan. 3, 2017.

Rev. Paul J. Rothschild, while remaining pastor of St. Dominic Savio Parish, Affton, is also appointed pastor of St. George Parish, St. Louis, effective Jan. 3, 2017.

Deacon Thomas Gerling, a permanent deacon, assisting the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in House Springs as well as assisting the pastoral care department at St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond Heights, is released from his assignment at St. Mary's Hospital, but continues in his assignment of assisting the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, effective Dec. 1, 2016. 

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