Homily for Mass of Reparation for Abortion on Saturday 13 November 2021 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bedford published with kind permission of Monsignor Gordon Read, Chaplain to the Latin Mass Society.
In a recent interview, John Smeaton, who worked at the heart of the pro-life movement for nearly fifty years, began by saying, “The aim of the pro-life movement and the reason for its existence are to oppose and to defeat the idea, which dominates virtually the entire world, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived, and to create a society in which God’s law “Thou shalt not kill” is not only written into national and international law, it is also upheld and energetically defended by our fellow citizens”. He adds that there are many related evils that also need to be combatted such as contraception, euthanasia and the promotion of values antipathetic to the true moral law such as same sex ‘marriage’ and in the context of education policies.
Think back to the beginning of the Sixteenth Century. Human sacrifice was widespread in Central America. When the Temple at the centre of what is now Mexico City was dedicated a few years before up to 80,000 captives are believed to have been sacrificed. Every year there were similar sacrifices – estimates vary between 1000 and 20,000 each year. Aztec people were inured to such brutality and thought it necessary for the preservation of their society. When Our Lady appeared to St Juan Diego in 1531, just ten years after the defeat of the Aztecs and destruction of their temple, she came to offer faith, hope and consolation to the oppressed natives of Mexico and to reconcile then with their Spanish rulers. She put an end to the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztecs and converted ten million people in the next 10 years! The nightmare of a bloodthirsty religion and human sacrifice was replaced by the light of Christ. Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross atoned for the sins of the whole world and is the source of hope for humanity – for each one of us.
It is not coincidence that Our Lady chose to reveal herself to St Juan Diego not with Our Saviour in her arms but rather carrying him in her womb. The image imprinted on the cloak is full of symbolic meaning – a visual homily that could be understood by the local people.
- THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN: She was greater than their dreaded sun-god “Huitzilopochtli”.
- HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON: She had clearly vanquished their foremost deity, the feather serpent “Quetzalcoatl.”
- THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE: She was greater than the stars of heaven that they worshipped. She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellation in the sky on December 12, 1531 – in the Julian calendar it was the winter solstice.
- THE BLUE-GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE: She was a Queen for she wears the colour of royalty.
- THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK: Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son.
- THE BLACK BELT: She was with child for she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
- THE FOUR-PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB: She was the “Mother of God.” The flower was a special symbol of life, movement and deity – the centre of the universe.
- HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER: She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
Our Lady brings us God’s greatest gift – his beloved Son. When St Juan Diego unfolds his garment, the Bishop reacts with awe. The Gospel for today’s Mass is the same as that for the Visitation. St John the Baptist leaps in the womb of St Elizabeth. One child, yet unborn, bears witness to another – the Saviour of the world already incarnate and alive in the womb of Mary. St Elizabeth responds with faith and wonder: “How have I deserved to be thus visited by the mother of my Lord?” The God whom the Universe cannot contain dwells among us already. His human fragility and weakness, far from diminishing his power, demonstrates the love of God is greater than human might. It is through the Incarnation that the Devil and all his works will be defeated.
Today’s lesson, shared with the feasts of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and of her Motherhood, reminds us that, in the words of the popular hymn, “All our joys do flow from Mary, the Mother of our God”. Ecclesiasticus speaks to us of the Holy Spirit who has overshadowed Our Lady and filled her with grace. “As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue…He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.”
Today we come before her trust and confidence. As she sheltered and nurtured the Saviour of the world within her womb and bore witness to him through the mystery of Guadalupe, we ask her to help us bear witness to the sanctity of all life but especially that hidden within the womb. May she touch the hearts of those who are closed to this wonderful gift of life and its value, and by the power of God transform the values of our fellow citizens and bring them into the harmony with God’s will that will bring them hope and joy.