I started reading a book last week about the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is called Our Lady Of Guadalupe~Mother Of The Civilization Of Love. The book teaches a lot about the culture and time in which Mary appeared. In 1531, she came to the indigenous people of Mexico, leaving a miraculous image of herself on the cloak (tilma) of a humble man named Juan Diego. The Aztec civilization was centered around human sacrifice, and then the Aztecs were conquered by the Spanish army. Mary came to bring a culture of life to them, appearing as a pregnant Mother. The Aztecs’ humanity had been devalued by their own culture and then was decimated even further by the Spanish invaders. Mary’s image on the tilma of Juan Diego contains many pictorial images that the Aztecs understood. Through this picture of her and all the signs it contained, the people learned what true Life is, and who the true God is. Without words, she showed them their value and the value of human life. Not long afterward, their practice of human sacrifice was discontinued.
As I have been reading this book I have been struck by one chapter especially, called The Face Of The Hidden Christ. This chapter is all about how we are each made “for the other”. In our own time, the world tells us repeatedly that the true path to happiness lies in fulfilling your self. But so many of us are finding this doesn’t work, it doesn’t lead to any lasting happiness or peace. Only by asking God to help us can we overcome our own selfishness and learn to give. Without Him we don’t see, we don’t even see our selves truly.
Many people have been shocked by the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two people who by all accounts had everything the world says we should want. But obviously, their hearts were broken. I never followed Anthony Bourdain but by the words he left behind, it seems apparent why he felt his life was too barren to continue on. Living strictly for your own happiness is a dead end. If you turn in on yourself, the results are never good.
These suicides can be seen as a wake-up call, not only to check in with each other and make sure the people we love are ok, but to examine ourselves and reorganize our own priorities. I know it’s been a challenge to me. If we measure our own lives according to what is popular, according to how the world tells us we should be, we usually come up short in our own estimation. We end up feeling less than. It’s not true. We are each worth so much more than what we own, what our jobs are, how nice our house is, how ‘perfect’ our families appear, what other people think of us. God doesn’t measure any of us by those standards.
One thing I remind myself of a lot is the words of Jesus, “not even when he has an abundance does a man’s life consist of the things he possesses.” “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” The things we own end up kind of owning us. Despite excess, we feel driven to get even more and it never ends. You have to work longer to hold onto what you have and you have to work longer to be able to accumulate more. More than once I’ve read interviews with people who have achieved fame and success, only to find they feel trapped by these things they thought they needed. Jesus is always reaching out to all of us but too often we ignore His voice until we become deaf to it. Whenever I catch myself becoming obsessed over getting some particular new thing, I know my heart is wandering. When I know His presence with me, all the stuff loses its attraction.
This quote is included in the book about Guadalupe and it is so fitting for this time.
“The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. Pope Benedict XVI