On Tepeyac Hill, where Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to St. Juan Diego, is where an Aztec goddess was worshiped by the Aztecs. The natives, to appease the evil goddess, offered human sacrifices. But a different kind of sacrifice was to replace the pagan human sacrifices of old. It was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. False gods demand innocent blood. But the “true God for whom we live” has already instituted the Sacrifice of his own Son. It is he who offers true expiation.
Curiously, human sacrifices were practiced on every continent before Christianity. Even when the Israelites first arrived in the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, from their forty year exile in the desert, the inhabitants were well into dark rituals of child sacrifices. In the years to come, when the people of God fell away from the worship of Yahweh, they too practiced pagan ritual of offering human sacrifices. As Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, said, “That in the realm of morals one thing stands out, the unquestioned prevalence of cruelty in the unbaptized world.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe was markedly different from the Aztec gods and goddesses that were worshipped. She came to Mexico to bear witness to the true God. As an ambassador of the Most High, her messages were one of compassion and concern for the Aztec people. She had come to relieve the anguish of a people who had just been conquered by the Spaniards. It would seem that she, the Blessed Virgin, did not want the Aztecs to confuse Christianity with the exploits of the Spanish Conquistadors.
Therefore, Divine Providence would have it that she would pay a personal visit to a native Indian man named Diego. By having a shrine built in her name where her Son could be worshipped, offered in the Mass, and known through religious instruction, a people in darkness could be sanctified and then civilized. From there a true civilization could be borne where human dignity would be enshrined in its laws and institutions.
This new beginning started when Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego when he was on route to church. His walk was several miles. And before a conversation ensued, he overheard beautiful music playing. He then took note of a young beautiful lady on the hill. After he approached her, the beautiful lady said to him, “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My Lady and Child, I have to reach your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco, to pursue things divine, taught and given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.”
She then spoke to him as a mother would a son: “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”
Having failed to convince the bishop in his first mission, St. Juan Diego asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to send someone else. He not only felt unworthy but he also believed himself to be an incompetent messenger. It was once said that God does not call the qualified, but qualifies those of whom he calls. Many of our Catholic institutions may require PHD’s for the designated responsibilities of communicating the Faith. No doubt, there is some justification for this. But Our Lord and Our Lady never put a high premium on intellectual ability. Rather, the virtues that the Apostles and the ambassadors of May possessed were one of simplicity and humility. Holiness made them competent for the mission at hand, not knowledge.
With words of assurance, the Blessed Virgin said to St. Juan Diego, “Hark, my son the least, you must understand that I have many servants and messengers, to whom I must entrust the delivery of my message, and carry my wish, but it is of precise detail that you yourself solicit and assist and that through your mediation my wish be complied. I earnestly implore, my son the least, and with sternness I command that you again go tomorrow and see the bishop. You go in my name, and make known my wish in its entirety that he has to start the erection of a temple which I ask of him. And again tell him that I, in person, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, sent you.”
Every occurrence is vested with meaning. Everyone has a mission that no one else can do. This is why Our Lady said to the man of lowly stature that “it is of precise detail [of Divine Providence] that you yourself solicit” the bishop. But there was a snag along the way. In any mission, delays and obstacles occur. Later, he discovered that his uncle was seriously ill. For this reason he tried to avoid Tepeyac Hill. He did not want to be distracted from assisting his uncle in need. The Lady from Heaven, however, tracked him down, found him and said,
“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it, be assured that he is now cured.”
Healing comes to some, but not for others. God knows precisely what is needed for our eternal happiness. For some, healing and relief is conducive towards that end. However, with others, infirmity and even death are permitted by God’s providence for the same reason. It is important to consider that every single person that was healed in the Gospels, and even St. Juan Diego’s uncle in 1531, eventually succumbed to illness and died. It was just that with these instances, infirmity and death was delayed for a divine purpose. Indeed, the same end awaits us all.
Having come back home to a healthy uncle, St. Juan Diego was resolved to convince the bishop to build a shrine for Our Lady. But a special miracle would be needed. Miracles always serve the message. This is why she told him, “Climb, my son the least, to the top of the hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, then come and bring them before my presence.” Flowers do not grow in December. Knowing this, the bishop would be convinced of her appearance. So, St. Juan did just that. He gathered the flowers and then when they were brought to Our Lady, she, like a good mother, arranged them and placed them in his mantle.
She then said him, “My son the least, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”
God always exceeds our expectations. When St. Juan Diego presented the flowers to the bishop, what he and those in attendance saw astonished them. As he unfolded his cloak, an indelible image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on it for all to see. Needless to say a shrine was built in her honor and millions of Aztec Indians converted to the Catholic Faith. Eventually, the needless pagan practice of human sacrifices ceased and human dignity was restored according to God's plan.