In 1531, the apparition and miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe showed the face of God’s merciful love to hundreds of thousands of native Mexicans who had never heard the Gospel of Christ.
When a beautiful lady appeared to St. Juan Diego, a native Christian, calling herself his Mother and asking for a chapel to be built, the bishop understandably asked for a sign. The lady instructed Juan Diego to fill his rough peasant’s cloak with the Castilian roses miraculously growing on the hilltop. She arranged them with her own hands. As Juan Diego opened his cloak before the bishop, the roses cascaded to the floor, revealing the miraculous image impressed on the cloth.
As the Aztecs used pictoral signs to convey messages, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to them powerfully of the expectant Mother of the True God, eclipsing all their demonic gods, and looking on them in love with the features of their own race. Millions of the native people embraced faith in Christ.
The poor cactus-fiber cloth of St. Juan Diego’s tilma, which ordinarily would have deteriorated in the space of a few years, remains to this day imprinted with the image not-made-by-hands in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy.” Thus Pope Francis opens the document announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Having no earthly father, Jesus’ human face reflects completely the face of his Immaculate Mother. In Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, too reveals the Face of the Father’s Mercy to an entire people, continent, and hemisphere, and to the whole earth.