“When [Jesus] looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than the rest” (Luke 21:1-3).
Juan Diego was born a member of the native Chichimeca people in central Mexico. He was not a particularly wealthy or educated man. He experienced a deep conversion to Christianity later in life. His devotion to the Eucharist led him to walk long miles to Mass and to receive formation from the local Franciscan friars. One day’s walk stood on from the rest. On December 9th, 1531, a woman appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill. She appeared in the dress of the native people and spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, but she revealed herself to be the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Juan Diego was entrusted with a mission both simple and profound – to ask the local bishop to construct a shrine. Upon his first request, the bishop was understandably skeptical. He instructed Juan Diego to ask Mary for a sign. Three days later, Juan Diego returned to Tepayac Hill. There, Mary appeared again and fragrant roses bloomed out of season. Juan Diego picked the roses and returned to the bishop.
Here was a simple gift from a simple man – a mantle full of roses. Yet as the roses tumbled from Juan Diego’s cloak, there on the fabric was the image now so familiar across the world – Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego never could have imagined the results of his simple gift. The “yes” of Juan Diego led to the construction of a shrine, inspired millions of conversions, and still transforms lives to this day.
We all have roses and small coins. If we can step out in faith and offer the little we have, who knows what great deeds God will do?