THE PRESENCE OF THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE TODAY…
…AND THE FALSE PROPHET (Donald Trump
4th WEEK IN THE TIME OF PREPARATION
This week we celebrate the appearance – and the continuing presence – of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We are preparing ourselves for a new year of struggle, renewing our faith. Yet I want to remind you of the scriptures that we studied in September, during the season of the Harvest. Our God is a God of history and the Holy Scriptures reveal the patterns of human history – the pattern of the formation and fall of empires – as they reveal the Way for the faithful to survive the twists and turns of these empires. So today I want to remind you of what we learned from scripture last September, before the election of Donald Trump.
Remember that in the book of Revelations the prophet wrote to his seven churches, introducing to them the image of the Lady chased by a dragon. The dragon chased the Lady up to heaven where that same dragon was defeated, mortally wounded and thrown down to earth by Jesus and the angels. Mortally wounded, the dragon still roamed the earth. Unable to attack the Lady and her son, the dragon preyed upon her other children.
The dragon is Satan, the Spirit that gives rise to all things evil. The beautiful Lady, the mother of Jesus, the same Dark Virgin of Guadalupe, is the Spirit that gathers together a faithful people in communities of resistance to evil and in obedience to the unselfish love which Jesus brought to the earth. The seven churches must have seen themselves in this Lady, persecuted by a powerful Roman Empire – and yet protected by God. They would have recognized that they lived in the midst of a spiritual and, at the same time, a social and political war.
Chapter 13 in Revelations introduces us to an “Unholy trinity”, one that comes to do battle with the “Holy Trinity” which sustains us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This unholy trinity is composed of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. The dragon is the devil, the beast is the empire and the false prophet is a leader that rises to power in order to heal the beast that was mortally wounded by the angels in heaven when he tried to chase and destroy the Virgin.
In September, we gave a warning. Some people don’t understand how scripture reveals the future. Yet it is not a mystery for scripture reveals the pattern of empires – as well as the Way for the faithful to survive them. We warned that although we had won many gains from the democrats – safety for the dreamers, a great reduction in deportations that spared families with U.S. citizen children – still the nation had failed to fully embrace the undocumented, the descendents of the people of Guadalupe.
We warned that when one evil spirit is driven out it wanders the earth gathering other evil spirits and they attack where the first evil spirit was driven out. We warned that while Obama and the democrats has driven out some of the demons of deportation and mass incarceration, seven times the number of demons would return. The demons of racism and white supremacy did indeed return with a vengeance and Donald Trump, the False Prophet, was elected President.
The rise of leaders who want to restore wounded empires is going on throughout Europe as well as in the United States. They are rising to power in Europe in the same way that Trump did – by instigating fear and hate against the growing numbers of immigrants of color. In Europe, these immigrants are Muslim from northern Africa and the middle east. In the United States, Muslims are also targeted but the main hostility is aimed at Latinos – because of their rising numbers.
These patterns of Empires were revealed in the Book of Revelations, describing the Roman Empire. Yet the pattern of the rise of a false prophet through the mobilizing of fear and hate against the immigrant was first described in the book of Exodus. There a Pharaoh rose who “did not remember the contributions of Joseph” and who feared the rising number of the Israelite workers. He worried that they would side with the enemies of the empire. This pharaoh tried to destroy this rising population but God sent Moses to liberate them.
As we reflect on the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531, we recall that she came at a time when the Europeans had established control over the former Aztec nation. The Virgin of Guadalupe gave the conquered people of Mexico the faith to survive European domination. When the people of Mexico fought for their independence they rode into battle with the symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe in front of them.
As the seat of power of the European Empires shifted to the United States, the Virgin of Guadalupe sustained the faith of millions who came north from a crippled Latin America. As in the Book of Revelations, the Lady gave the Juan Diegos of today the faith and courage to confront those in power with their faith – and to survive the False Prophet as he sought to repair the wounded empire.
It is no wonder that there has been so much misinterpretation of the scriptures in the Book of Revelations! It revealed the pattern of all empires. We must remember the power of faith, the faith that is represented in the virgin of Guadalupe. Even as Europe and the United States fall prey to false prophets preaching hate and fear of the immigrants, a Pope was given authority over the church who preached against those who attacked the immigrants, a pope who came for the first time from Latin America and the faith traditions of the Virgin of Guadalupe!
Scriptures teach us that each time an Empire rises and falls, with its times of false prophets trying to revive it, the faith of those who persevere create points of powerful resistance, communities that provide sanctuary for the persecuted – sanctuaries in which the people are not only protected but are filled with the love and unity and justice of God. In these communities of resistance, these sanctuaries, “Heaven comes down to earth.”
As it has been before in human history, so it will be again. It is not only the Holy Scriptures that record these patterns of Empire and popular resistance, but the same analysis is made by students of history – and those who have sustained the revolutionary movements that have fought for the independence of the nations of Latin America and Africa. The way empires rise and fall, the way false prophets rise to heal the wounds of empires by inspiring fear and hatred of the people of God, is as true today as it was in the beginning. What many historians and revolutionaries miss however is the faith that sustains and gives the courage and unity to the people to survive: the faith inspired by the Virgin of Guadalupe, the one who is now known as the Virgin of all the Americas!
I know that there is great fear among our people as we approach January 20th and the ascent to power of Donald Trump. Already he has announced the appointment to positions of power those who have called for mass deportation and for attacks on people of color and who will punish the very working people who were fooled into voting for him – fooled by appeals to their own racism. Yet always God gives us a sign.
Remember that the Dark Virgin appeared to the indigenous people of Mexico. Juan Diego forced the church of his oppressors to build a temple. He did so through the flowers and the image of the Dark Virgin on his Tilma, a heavenly woman with features of the indigenous. This week the indigenous tribes of North America assembled at Standing Rock. They drew many supporters and to their own warriors were joined by thousands of veterans of U.S. wars that stood with them. Some of these veterans were the ones who came here to Chicago for Miguel Perez – and for the thousands of green card soldiers who have been deported after serving this empire around the world.
This week, the indigenous of standing rock, who stood their ground to protect the water, to protect their survival, were victorious in stopping the pipeline that would have destroyed them. Is this not a sign that those who act with faith and courage will survive as the False Prophet comes to the White House? The answer is YES!
Each year we follow a path to renew our faith and our strength. Without renewal each year, our faith and our strength would wither. We begin again – as does all of creation. And so we follow the path that the scriptures reveal to us.
We began seeking the silence of Zechariah. Zechariah did not believe the angel when Gabriel told him his wife would give birth to a child – a child who would bring about great changes for his people. Gabriel struck him silent until the child was born so that he would learn to believe. In the second week, we witnessed the young Mary who accepted the gift of the angel with faith and with courage – even though she did not understand how it would come to pass. Then we walked in the shoes of Joseph as he overcame his fears of being isolated and ridiculed for accepting the pregnant Mary as his wife – when the angel explained that the child was coming to liberate HIS people.
We were asked during these weeks of preparation to seek the silence of Zechariah to calm our fears of change and our doubts about God – and to summon the faith and courage of Mary, to make ourselves ready. They ask us to have the courage to act even when others tell us what we do is futile and unpopular, The scriptures guide us in this time of preparation.
This week, young Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, Zechariah’s old wife who was pregnant with John the Baptist. The child in Elizabeth’s belly moved towards the baby Jesus, still in Mary’s womb.
Mary is now feeling the promised child growing inside her. In the same way, there is a powerful faith that seeks to grow inside of each of you – if you let it! In the presence of the miracle of her cousin’s child, Mary’s faith grows stronger. She knows in her heart that this child, Jesus, will save her people. Her prayer of thanksgiving has been repeated for centuries by believers. Mary now prays to a God that will “bring down rulers from their thrones but lift up the humble; who will fill the hungry with good things but send the rich away empty.”
Mary can feel a God of justice coming into her people. At the same time, these two women can also feel the coming of John the Baptist, making the way ready for Jesus, calling on the people to repent of their sins so that they can receive the Kingdom of God when Jesus comes.
How do these scriptures guide our preparation for the year to come? In the silence of Zechariah we repent as John will call us to do. In the faith of Mary we take the first steps in renewing our faith, daring to believe. In the presence of these two women, we dare to let our faith grow stronger. With Mary, we dare to speak boldly that God will save our people, that God will lift up the humble.
God works through the faithful. God works through those who dare to believe – and who dare to act. How do we just let go of our fears and our doubts and let God work in us? How do we let our faith grow and make us strong?
Mary and Elizabeth had been in the presence of the angel Gabriel. They had become pregnant with children that promised great change for their people. The Kingdom of God, the people of God, was growing inside of them. Yet that was two thousand years ago. How can we feel what they felt today?
God did not stop working after the time of Jesus. We can feel his presence – when we pray. We feel his presence when we see the miracles that occur around us. We feel his presence when we see the faith that grows in those among us that persevere and bear witness in their lives to the love and power of God.
This is our time for renewal in the face of a false prophet who would revive the serpent that has grown to be a beast, an empire of white supremacy. Our people need those with the courage of Mary, with the blessing of the Dark Virgin, to give them a sign of hope, to renew their faith as ours is renewed, That is why we marched this morning for sanctuary – for sanctuary churches and sanctuary cities and sanctuary schools – for sanctuary communities of faith and resistance. That is why we will join in with all those who seek justice, who have the courage to resist, on January 20th in marches and rallies throughout the nation.
This is not a year of fear. This is a year of a rising faith, the year of sanctuary, the year of solidarity, the year of communities blessed by the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Good News is that this is not Donald Trump’s year. The Good News is that this is the year that begins today with the presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the people she has always protected and never abandoned. This is the year that begins today with the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus:
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Holy Scriptures for the Fourth Week in the Time of Preparation
All The Different Precious Flowers
When I reached the top of the hill I saw that it was now paradise. Every kind of different precious flowers were there, each one perfect, the very finest that there are, full of dew and shining so I immediately cut them; and she told me that I should give them to you from her, and that in this way I would show the truth; that you should see the sign that you were asking for in order to carry our her beloved will, and so that it will be clear that my word, my message, is truth, here they are; please receive them." And then he held out his white tilma, in the hollow of which he had placed the flowers. And just as all the different precious flowers fell to the floor, then and there the beloved Image of the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, became the sign, suddenly appeared in the form and figure in which it is now, where it is preserved in her beloved little house, in her sacred little house at Tepeyac, which is called Guadalupe.
Revelation 13:11-17 The Beast out of the Earth
Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
LUKE 1: 39-45 MARY VISITS ELIZABETH
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”