December 12, 2021
St. John the Baptist and today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe show us how effective God’s prophetic gifts can be for unleashing the transformative power of the Gospel. And how we can participate.
- After a long absence of the great voice of prophecy, John the Baptist presented an invitation for all to respond and prepare for the one who is coming. It was an invitation of transformation.
- The Church exist in order to evangelize. Evangelization is so people can believe and be saved. It is the mission of the Church.
- A prophet is one who has received a message from God and has the mission to proclaim that message.
- Prophetic evangelization is evangelization with this power of the prophetic graces. Jesus is the greatest example of prophetic evangelization.
- The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego resulted in 9 million conversions asking to be baptized. A great example of prophetic evangelization.
- Prophetic evangelization is an anointed language, anointed by the Holy Spirit that speaks to the heart.
Only the Gospel of Jesus can transform our world. That’s the Church’s mission, evangelization, but God to help the Church, gives these prophetic graces.
It had been a long time since the people had heard the voice of a great prophet. Many of them, long before their lifetimes, that had been centuries. And perhaps they’re wondering if they would ever hear the word of a prophet again, if God was still with His people, or if he had abandoned them. And that’s the situation which the Gospel today speaks of, after that long, long absence of the great voice of prophecy, then suddenly, a prophet appears. This prophet coming out from the desert, John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight his path,” saying, “there’s one mightier than I who is coming, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And so suddenly, something is happening. Suddenly, there’s this new, surprising opportunity that is being presented, an invitation to respond and prepare for the one who is coming. And it’s an invitation which can transform everyone who responds at that time. So, this is a moment of special opportunity. And then, what was the last phrase we heard in the Gospel today? It said, So, John the Baptist with many other exhortations, preached the good news to the poor, preached the Good News. Good News is where we get our word, Gospel. Gospel means Good News. And the Greek word here Evangelion is where we get the word for evangelize, evangelization. So, what is to evangelize? The Catechism says, “it is to proclaim Jesus and His gospel, by word, and by the witness of our life.” So that’s very important to proclaim Jesus and His gospel, by our word and by the way we live. And St. Paul VI who was Pope in 1975, wrote this very important document on evangelization in our world today. And he said, “Evangelization is not an option or contribution for the Church. It is a duty incumbent on her by the command of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has given the Church this mission, it says so that people can believe and be saved. How important is that, so that people can believe and be saved. Evangelization is so that people can believe and be saved. And the Pope says, “This is the essential mission of the Church.” Evangelization is the essential mission of the Church. It’s not just the hall of bingo, right, it’s to evangelize. And he says, “which the vast and profound changes of the present-day society make all the more urgent and even more urgent today with all that’s going on, it’s never been more urgent to evangelize. And he says, “evangelizing is the grace and vocation proper to the Church. It’s her deepest identity, the deepest identity of the Church to evangelize. He says, “The Church exists in order to evangelize. A church, which is not evangelizing is not doing what it’s supposed to do what it exists to do.” And so here in the Gospel, we see St. John the Baptist, evangelizing, preaching, proclaiming the Good News, proclaiming the Gospel. And John is also a prophet. So, what is a prophet? I’ve often said that the Church should not be a nonprofit organization, right? The Church should have prophets. What is the prophet? A prophet is one who has received from God, a message and a mission to proclaim that message, received from God a message and a mission. And so, this makes a very powerful evangelization. John the Baptist, we could call it a prophetic evangelization. It’s evangelization with this power of the prophetic graces and even Jesus Christ, the great evangelizer presents Himself as a prophet. He is the Son of God, but He presents Himself as one who has received a message from His Father, and the Father has given Him the mission to proclaim it. So, Jesus is the great example of prophetic evangelization. That is not just an evangelization that we get by human learning, and by our own decision, but which comes directly with a message and a mission from God. I think it is because it reminds me of when I was in Mexico and Monterey, in the 90s, and one of us in the community I used to belong to, one of our priests came from France. And he was talking with us and he was the priest in charge of the studies. And he was talking, he said, you know, in the Church, there’s these essentials like the sacraments and doctrine. And then there’s these things like apparitions and locutions and stuff. And I said to him, if the Church exists to evangelize and actually our community, the community that I belonged to, had the Evangelion agenda, this document, of Pope, St. Paul VI as a central document, and I said, if the Church is they exist to evangelize, what in Mexico has been more powerful for evangelizing than the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe? If that’s the case, can you call something which has been so powerful to evangelize, which is the very purpose of the Church, can you dismiss that as a thing, a little thing. And today, by God’s providence, we are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And so, remembering that situation, that the Aztec empire was dominated by the worship of these demonic spirits, demonic idols, cruel idols calling for human sacrifice in extraordinary quantities, that they were people were marched the victims were slowly marched up to the top of this huge pyramid, which everybody could see. And then there at the very top, and visible to everyone, that the victim’s heart was cut out alive, the victims were still living, and the priest would cut, so this is what the priest was doing. This is a great thing for priests to do, right. The priest was cutting out the victims still beating heart there. So, this was the great act of worship, that these satanic spirits were, were calling for. So, you can imagine the oppression of the satanic oppression of the people and so, then Cortes came and there was the conquering of the Aztec Empire, you know, Cortes arrived in the early 1500s. And the situation by the 1500’s, like 1529, had become explosive, because there was this contact between these two very, very different cultures is such a difficult one. Apparently, the Bishop of Mexico City at that time, was afraid that there was going to be an explosion of bloodshed, and was praying for a sign. Apparently, he asked, the sign he was asking for was Castilian roses, those roses from Spain as a sign of his prayers. And so, it’s at this critical moment of our of continent, that in 1531, our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac. Yes, that’s the name we’ve given our little hillside over there, where we have our shrine on Tepeyac because of this. And Juan Diego, first of all, begins to hear this beautiful singing of birds, and begins to sense this special joy and fascination in his heart. And then he encounters this beautiful young woman. And as she begins to speak to him, she asked him to build this little Teocalli, that’s what we call our little shrine, because this is from our Blessed Mother, she asks that this little Teocalli, this little shrine built where she would manifest God’s presence. She says, “where I will show him, I will exalt Him, and I will make Him manifest,” that is she wants to proclaim and manifest God’s presence, “where I will offer Him to all the people, with all my love, my compassionate gaze and my help, my salvation, because I am truly your merciful mother, yours and the mother of all who live united in this land. And of all mankind, of all those who love me of those who cry to me, of those who search for me, of those who have confidence in me. There, I will listen to their cry, to their sadness, so as to curb all their different pains, their miseries and sorrow to remedy and alleviate their sufferings.” So, she sends him, she sent Juan Diego as her messenger to the bishop. And the sign she gives him in middle of December, happens to be a miraculous group of Castilian roses. There were no roses at that time in that area, and especially no Castilian roses so that the roses we have over here, represent those roses. And then it’s when he goes, when he goes, so he gathers them up in his garment, his tilma. And when he goes to open them, and present them to the bishop, it’s at that moment that this miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appears on his tilma. And so, this had a very powerful effect on all of Mexico. So, there are healings but especially many conversions, because the Spanish missionaries up till then had very little success in evangelizing. It was partly because of the cultures were so different and conflict between these cultures. And in the nine years that followed this, over 9 million conversions, nine million now coming, asking to be Baptized and so tremendous fruits. When I was in Mexico, in Monterey, we were, by God’s providence assigned to the Basilica there of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Monterey. So, it’s not the primary basilica of Our Lady’s images in Mexico City, but this is the second Basilica. And it was amazing to me, as a gringo, to see how powerful, almost 500 years later, how powerful was still the attraction of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And why is it so powerful? Why is this so powerful? This is the point I wanted to emphasize today because I think Our Lady of Guadalupe is a great example of prophetic evangelization. Because, again, why was it so powerful? Because one thing is that showed the people that God is real, that God is not a human invention. He’s not a European invention. But this God is a God, the Christian God is the God who comes from heaven. And He is not just real, but He’s active. So that the Christian religion is not just a bunch of doctrine or laws, but it’s a God who has and continues to intervene in human history, who continues to speak and to act, in even miraculous ways. And for instance, Juan Diego’s uncle, was miraculously healed. And many other miraculous healings. So, God is real, God is active, and He is their God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He’s not just a European God, He is their God. He’s not just a God who did something far away. But He’s the God who’s right there in their land. He’s not just a God who did something 1000s of years ago, but He’s a God right there acting in their time and their day. He is a God who cares about them. He is a God who knows their needs. He is a God who has chosen one of them. Not just people from a foreign country, but has chosen one of them to be His Messenger, Juan Diego. He’s a God who through His mother is using their language and their expressions, their way of expressing themselves so that the Our Lady of Guadalupe was speaking not in Spanish but in Nahuatl. And so, He’s a God, who is close to them, God with us, and He’s the God who’s speaking to them. That is, it’s the same God that Jesus is and that Jesus announces. It’s the same Gospel, but it’s adapted to their special needs, to their life and culture. St. John Paul spoke a lot of the need for enculturating, a proper and an authentic inculturation of the gospel. What that means is being faithful to the Gospel but presenting it in a way that is adapted to each situation. For instance, the fact that Juan Diego’s experience begins by hearing these beautiful birds singing, which for them was a sign of heaven. And the flowers that were used, and the image spoke in many powerful ways that we’re not as sensitive to, but to the people who first saw it, using the type of imagery that they could understand. And the message that was given was the message that they needed to hear. Because God gives different messages to different peoples. One of the best examples is the apocalypse, the first two chapters, God gives seven letters, seven different letters to the seven different Churches there. Each one is different. Sometimes the message is of repentance, sometimes the message is of consolation and hope. And so, the message of our Blessed Mother is especially a message of consolation, and joy and hope. And this Gaudete Sunday, it’s good to hear this message of joy. St. Paul says that he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation, and upbuilding encouragement and consolation. And so, this was a message of upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Our Lady of Guadalupe, wasn’t a call to penance, to repentance. It was a message of consolation and joy. And this is also why prophetic evangelization to be so powerful, because it was a message which speaks to the heart. It wasn’t a complicated, cold language. It was a maternal, loving language, warm language, we could say, an anointed language, that very simple people can understand. Here’s one of the things she said to Juan Diego. “Listen, and keep in your heart, my youngest son, there is nothing for you to fear,” because Juan Diego is concerned about his uncle who is dying, “there is nothing for you to fear, nothing to afflict you. Let neither your face nor your heart be worried. Do not fear this or any other illness, nor anything pounding nor afflicted. Am I not here? I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantle and my crossed arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not let anything afflict you perturb you. Let not the sickness of your uncle cause pain, he will not die of it now, be assured that he is well.” So, this is not a cold, abstract, theoretical, complicated language. This is a very simple, warm mother speaking to her child, speaking about what is on the heart and concerning her child. So, you can imagine how powerful that was for Juan Diego and for all the people to hear. This is the way that the Mother of God is. This is not a God who was asking people to be marched up so that they can be slaughtered and their heart torn out. This is a God who is speaking with the tenderness of a mother. So, this shows how powerful prophetic evangelization can be. So prophetic evangelization, by that I mean evangelization which is open to these prophetic graces, because these prophetic graces reveal that God is with us, that God is still active, and they’re adapted to the special needs. Because it’s important. If a person is on the wrong road, they need a message to be told this is the wrong road. You got to go back. So that might be a message of repentance. But if a person is on the right road, but they’re getting very discouraged because it’s so hard, they don’t need a message of repentance to change. They need a message of encouragement. And so that’s important if you’re on a road to know am I supposed to turn back, or keep on going. So, you need to know is this a message of repentance? Or is it a message of encouragement? That’s very important to hear. And so that’s when the advantage of the prophetic evangelization because God knows what each situation needs. So, for instance, the message of Fatima was a strong message of repentance. And the Lord’s giving us today, this great message of Divine Mercy for our time to wake us up. And so, the prophetic Evangelization is such an anointed language. So, it speaks to the heart, where some efforts of evangelization, just leave us cold, because they are cold. But this is a language which is anointed by the Holy Spirit, a language as I say, of the heart. And, unfortunately, that prophetic Evangelization is often neglected in the Church, when I said I was at this Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. And it was sad for me to see because there was, I thought, so often we have these meetings say what can we do to get people to come to Church and draw more people. And so, we come up with all these ideas, all these programs and stuff. And when Our Blessed Mother was joining people herself, I mean, and it’s hard for Americans to realize how powerful that attraction is. The huge numbers of people, not just women, but men and young men to come into the Basilica, but I felt that we weren’t doing a very good job of receiving them. So that was our fault. Our Blessed Mother was drawing them to the Basilica. But we were not taking advantage of this and we were wasting our time and our own human effort, evangelization, instead of cooperating with these God given graces, like the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And so those of you who come here know that we often speak because I think that’s part of the, the mission of God has given our little Mission of Divine Mercy is to recall the importance of prophecy, how powerful prophecy is for evangelization in the Church. And so, you might say, well, I’m not a prophet, so I can’t do that. I’m not John the Baptist and not Juan Diego. But right, we don’t have those same graces but we can participate in them by simply sharing them, for instance just by getting to know this example of Our Lady of Guadalupe, just getting to know it, and sharing it. You’re sharing in this prophetic evangelization, the power of it. So just for instance, reading about Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is a beautiful story, beautiful message of consolation is a way of participating in the graces of prophetic evangelization. So that’s the point I want to emphasize today with this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and with St. John the Baptist, the power of prophetic evangelization. Because only the Gospel of Jesus can transform our world. That’s the Church’s mission, evangelization, but God to help the Church, gives these prophetic graces, like the message of Divine Mercy. Another example, for instance, I don’t know where in the world in the last decade, there’s been as much powerful evangelization and conversion as the little village of Medjugorje. And not because someone on earth decided that but because there’s many graces of prophetic graces being poured out there. And so, I’ll just conclude with rereading again, a few of these words from our Blessed Mother. And if you want you can close your eyes to listen to them. “I am truly your merciful mother.” And you can listen to these words as being spoken to you. “There I will listen to their cry to their sadness, so as to curb all their different pains, their miseries and sorrow, to remedy and alleviate their sufferings. Listen in keeping your heart my youngest son, that there is nothing for you to fear, nothing to afflict you. That neither your face nor your heart be worried. Do not fear this nor any other illness, nor anything pounding nor afflicting. Am I not here? I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow? Under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not let anything afflict you or perturb you.” Amen