I have a devotion to Juan Diego, and this past Sunday was his feast day. So, it became a very full day for me.
To start, I was able to go and visit the Italian Home for Children, where I had volunteered the year before. I go and ring the buzzer and enter in, and make my way down to the chapel. Now the chapel is a place where the kids come for Sunday service, and the wall is covered with all the photos of previous kids and volunteers and staff.
So I walk in, and there’s a line of young girls waiting to enter, dressed in red dresses. When I go in, the chapel is filled with people, the kids and some staff, and a visiting local Bible church. So after some introductions, one little boy from the church group comes up to the front and introduces the next event. Then, the girls who were in the hallway file into the chapel and line up, and begin to do a dance to beautiful music about God. Now this whole church is African American, and I know they’re not living in luxury. So my eyes began to water up with the waterworks a bit because of the generosity of it all.
I got a chance to share some thoughts. I told the kids I was jealous, because the dancers didn’t come to where I live to dance for me. They are very important to God, and even though no one wants to be in an orphanage institution, that is a very special place where they live. In the chapel, God enters in. And when He enters in, He makes the dark place the best place.
Just after that, I took a 40-minute drive to a parish where an hispanic community was celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Mass went 2 hours, including traditional dancing and singing. Afterwards the reception went another 4 hours, though I only stayed 2 more. I sat with a new friend Celia. She is married, and from El Salvador, and an active part of the church community. She doesn’t speak much english and she has to work as a nanny at the home of a repo man in Wellesley. When I asked her where she was leaving to go to, all the joy from the celebration, all the smiles and upbeat conversation, it all disappeared. Her face got sad. “I have to go to work.” At 1pm on Sunday. The whole Mass and the community had been the light for her that day. No one really wants to be an immigrant having to move to a different country and culture, speak a new language, and start at the bottom. But in the new land where times are tough, God has entered in, and when He enters in, He makes it the best place to be.
From the celebration, I went downtown to Boston to hear a free Messiah concert. A friend was playing in the orchestra, and I wanted to support him and, well, it was free too. So I got there a little bit late and took a seat in the back and enjoyed the music in between my dreams. So after it was over, I began to walk to the front, and I noticed several familiar faces. See, my friend and I am a part of a job-seeking network support group that meets every week. It has become a very friendly and supportive group, and a whole bunch of folks had come to the concert. Afterwards, everyone went out for dinner. I thought, “Wow, no one wants to be unemployed and have to go to the job help center. But who with a job wouldn’t want what we have? Where else could you get this fellowship? This group is special. That job center is a special place. God has entered in. And when He enters in, that dark place that no one wants to go into becomes the best place to be.”
After leaving there, I went to Mass in the Back Bay. There the priest gave a homily on
Almost 500 years ago, just about this very day, life in the Americas had become a very dark place. In Mexico City, the Aztecs and Spaniards were at war, whole segments of people were dead from the war and disease, cultures and psychologies were crumbled, religious groups were at a stalemate. And then … someone let God in. And millions of people then wanted to come to Mexico City. Almost 9 milion people came from miles away. It became the greatest conversion event of joy and love that the world has ever known. A place without hope, the darkest place on the continent, became the best place to be.
As the birth of Jesus approached, Joseph and Mary couldn’t stay home. They didn’t have a warm comfortable place, no extended family, no, they hit the road. And even then, in a different city, they had to settle for rejection and a cold, hard cave. With animals, and all the mess that goes with them, and no one to help deliver the child and no place to really put the newborn. Who wants to be there, pregnant and ready to deliver? Nobody!
But then … they let God in.
After that, everyone wanted to go to that cave. The shepherds got the inside scoup from angels, and they couldn’t wait to go. Wise men got inspired to follow a star a lot of days of travel, and they went. Even the evil king Herod, he wanted to go too. And over the last two thousand years, millions of people have come up with thousands of ways of remembering the story, trying to re-create it. Because we want to go there too.
Do you want to experience what it’s like seeing orphans loved? Do you want to see poor immigrants lifted out of their malaise into a joyful celebration? Do you want to see the painfully unemployed doing the impossible: smiling and laughing? Do you want to see defeated, heartbroken people come back to life? Do you want to really be at that Christmas cave where God was born to turn the world upside down?
Then there’s only one thing you need to do:
Let God in.
Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)