Pope Francis celebrated last Tuesday a special Mass on the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a dark-skinned Virgin who appeared to an Indian peasant in 1531 on a hillside near today’s Mexico City. He used the event to ask the faithful – and the rest of the world – to treat indigenous or natïve people, women, peasants, migrants, the unemployed, the poor – with the dignity they deserve.
The face of the Church is indigenous, mestizo, and black, he said. “We want to be a Church with a mestizo, peasant or suburban, a face that is poor, unemployed, of children, old and young, so that no one feels sterile or shameful or worthless.”
It was once again an appeal for the migrants of North Africa and the Middle East trying to find new lives in Europe. It was an appeal for the poor, for the dark-skinned who are shunned by people like the ”white supremacists” of the United States.
The dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe went on to become a unifying standard for the various peoples of South America who fought the colonial rule of Spain. She was also the Reina de Filipinas during those years of anti-colonial ferment that led to the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
Pope Francis’ message on the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe was a welcome reminder of the special time in which we are now in the Christian calendar – the Advent Season. We had the first Advent Sunday with its message of hope, then the second with its message of love, and the third – today – with its message of joy. The coming fourth Advent Sunday will carry the message of peace.
Yesterday, December 16, the first of the nine days of Simbang Gabi pre-dawn masses was celebrated in churchyards all over the country. This is a beautiful Christmas tradition we share with Mexico and a few other nations. To many Filipinos, this is the real beginning of Christmas, culminating in the Christmas Eve Mass ending on Christmas Day.
In the last few months, the nation’s attention has been drawn to headlines about killings in the anti-drug campaign, fighting in Marawi City, traffic protests, impeachments, debates on martial law, and the danger posed by the dengue vaccine. All these, we hope, have now been set aside, until perhaps the next year.
For now, let us heed the message of Pope Francis appealing for migrants and the other poor people of the world, and the messages of hope, love, joy, and peace of the Advent Season. Let us be one with the faithful in the nine days of worship in the pre-dawn air during the Simbang Gabi and then, on Christmas Day, let us celebrate the event for which all these have been preparations, the birth of Christ.