This year, as he does every year, Pope Francis presided at a Solemn Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thousands of Latin American faithful participated.
In his homily, the Pontiff asked Latin America to defend "our peoples from an ideological colonization that cancels out their richness, be they indigenous peoples, African-Americans, mestizos, peasants, or slum dwellers."
The Pope said:
The Mother of God is a figure of the Church. From her we want to learn to be a Church with a mestizo face, with an indigenous face, an African-American face, a peasant face, a Mecapal, a Cacaxtle, beaten and broken, forced to bow before the mighty - the face of the poor, the face of the unemployed, the face of every boy and girl, of the old and young, until nobody feels sterile nor infertile, until nobody feels ashamed or belittled.
Today's Gospel is the preface to two great Biblical canticles: the Canticle of Mary, called the "Magnificat", and the Canticle of Zechariah, the "Benedictus", which I like to call "the Canticle of Elizabeth" or "the Song of Fertility".
Elizabeth is the sterile woman, with all that this implied for the religious mentality of her time, which considered sterility as a divine punishment due to one's own sin or that of the husband - a sign of shame in her own flesh, making her feel guilty of a sin she did not commit, making her feel worthless because he did not live up to what was expected of her. And in this context the song of Elizabeth breaks forth in the form of a question: "Who am I, that the mother of my Lord comes to visit me?."
Here we can glimpse the parallel with the poor Indian Juan Diego when he tells Mary: "I really am not worth anything, I'm just a Mecapal, I'm a Cacaxtle, beaten and broken, who must bow down before the foreign conquerors. It is not my place nor my right to go to the high places you would send me."
Here, too, we see the parallels in our own society:
- In the indigenous peoples and the African-Americans who very often are not treated with dignity or granted equality.
- In many women, who are excluded because of their gender, race or socio-economic position.
- In those youth who receive an education of inferior quality and are denied the opportunity to progress in their studies or to enter the workplace so they can develop and start a family.
- In the many poor, the unemployed, the migrants, immigrants, refugees, peasants without land, struggling to survive in an "alternate economy".
- In boys and girls, beaten and broken, forced into child prostitution or exploited by sex tourism.
And yet, alongside this "Elizabeth the sterile one", we contemplate "Elizabeth overshadowed by fertility". She was the first to recognize and bless Mary. It is she who in her old age experienced in her own life, in her very flesh, the fulfillment of the promise made by God.
In Elizabeth, we realize that the dream of God is not - and never will be - to sterilize or stigmatize or fill with shame His children, but rather to nurture in them and let break forth from them a song of blessing.
In the same way we realize it in Juan Diego. It was precisely he, and no other, who carries in his tilma the image of the Virgin: the Virgin with brown skin and mestizo face, supported by an angel with the wings of the eagle, the pelican and the macaw - the sacred birds of the Aztec; the mother able to take upon herself the traits of her children to make them feel part of her blessing.
Dear sisters brothers, in the midst of this dialectic of fertility and sterility, let us behold the richness and cultural diversity of our peoples in Latin America. This cultural diversity is a great treasure that we are called upon not only to cultivate but courageously to defend against any and every attempt at homogenization that ends up imposing - under catchy slogans - one single way of thinking, one single of being, of feeling, of living - a globalization that ends up crippling and sterilizing everything we inherited from our elders; that ends up making us - especially our young people - feel small and worhless because we belong to this or that minority culture.
In short, our fertility requires us to defend our peoples from an ideological colonization that cancels out their richness, be they indigenous peoples, African-Americans, mestizos, peasants, or slum dwellers.
Until each and every human being, like Elizabeth and Juan Diego, can know themselves to be the bearer of a promise, of a hope and can say from their gut: "Abba! Father!" in accordance with the mystery of the children of God, an adoption which, without canceling the unique features of each person, universalizes us and makes us a people.
Mary! Mary! Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!