Rich and Poor
Mary is known and loved by rich and poor alike. For almost 2,000 years, both have traveled rocky paths to make pilgrimages to her. Statues and images of her have adorned the homes and gardens of both the rich and the poor, and in every class of humanity, people of great resources and those of few, have looked up to her as an example of a faithful, attentive, transfigured life.
Mary is also a bridge between the rich and the poor in light of the ways in which she has appeared through visions. While it is true that she most often appears to the poor, in some cases, she has appeared to both the rich and the poor, instructing them to work together to accomplish God's purpose.
It might be suggested that Mary has always recognized what each person might have to offer. In many cases with the wealthy, she has viewed them as capable for helping to erect churches or shrines or to donate property to the faithful (as occurred on the property that was graced by the Holy Family in Zeitun, Egypt). In those lacking material resources, she may have seen an openness that she couldn't always expect in the wealthy.
The Virgin's role, as a poor peasant from Nazareth who was chosen by God to become the bearer of the divine and to be remembered with love and reverence in all of the subsequent ages, also serves to remind us of another way in which she brings together the rich and the poor, that is, by clearly asserting that through her, the earthly orders and classes are subject to reversal. All that is seen as great in our world may not be seen as so great in the next, just as Christ said that the first on this earth shall be last and the last on this earth shall be first (Mark 10:31).
It is through Mary that we can see how God reverses the world order — those of few resources receive the wealth of revelation, those who are poor in this world become teachers to the rich, and all of this is demonstrated by the first peasant who lives this reversal in her own life — becoming powerful through humility, and strong in her weakness.
The Virgin Mary illustrates the reversal of the classes when she sings her song, the Magnificat, in which she says that God has put down the mighty from the thrones and exalted those of low degree, that he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away (Luke 1:53).
The Virgin Mary's apparitions at Guadalupe also speak to her recognition of the infinite value of people who lack material resources and are seen as powerless in the eyes of the world. It was there that the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a peasant who was from one of the lowest classes in Mexico, an Aztec living in an occupied country, in a position of powerlessness.
After he took her message that the Virgin Mary wanted a church to be built the local bishop and was turned away, he returned to the Virgin and told her that if she really wanted the church to be built, then she should select a more important person to deliver the message.
But at this, the Virgin Mary offered Juan Diego the ultimate affirmation, telling him that it was he she chose. Her complete belief in him despite his powerless position in his own society offers hints of the ways in which the kingdom of God reverses earthly orders — the powerless can become powerful, those of low status, like the Virgin Mary, can be exalted for generations to come.
The message of Guadalupe has become central to Mexican identity, not only because the Virgin Mary's appearances sparked the conversion of nine million Aztecs but also because of the person she selected. Her choice of Juan Diego conveys the important message to anyone who feels slighted by society that they, too, can have a profound influence, and that their life is of infinite value. They, too, can become bearers of the word through their loving, attentive, and active obedience to God.