I attended a funeral for a the grandfather of one of our teens today. As Father started his homily he told us how just minutes before the man’s death he accepted the invitation from the Priest that was ministering to him on his deathbed to be baptized. This man was married to a Catholic woman for many decades, raised Catholic children but never was baptized. The reason why he never got baptized we may never know. What I believe though is that in that moment of suffering, as he was dying, he was truly emptied of any pretense, of any self-reliance, of any hindrances to God’s full love found in the graces of baptism. He was humble in the situation and finally allowed God to wash him fully with the love only God could give.
We see a similar thing in reflected in two very important people in our faith, Mary and St Juan Diego. Mary shows us how humility can lead to not only graces flowing through us but allow our emptiness to magnify them. In Mary’s fiat (Luke 1:38) we see her humility as she calls her self a handmaiden, a servant, of the Lord. That humility is shown again later in her Song of Praise (Luke 1:48) as she speaks of her lowly estate and again refers to herself as a handmaiden of the Lord.
As Father Mark Toups mentions in his book “Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary,” this emptiness allows Mary to magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46) just as a canyon magnifies a voice through it’s echo. Mary cannot generate those graces received from God but because of her emptiness and her immaculate conception her soul is able to take those graces a magnifies what she hears. In her humility, her perfect emptiness she is able to fully participate with the grace of God.
We further see this same humility in the ambassador of Mary of Guadalupe, St Juan Diego. Mary herself in the first appearance calls him “the humblest of my children.” St Juan Diego shows his humility as he tells Our Lady that a “more illustrious,” person should pass her message for he is “only an insignificant man.” What self-awareness and humility he had to believe himself so insignificant, it is because of that insignificance he has been placed first in the eyes of Mary to be her herald in the New World. In that emptiness of self that he had, that humility he lived, he was able to magnify that message of Our Lady of Guadalupe (that is ultimately the message of Christ), a message that brought that natives of Mexico into the family of God and forced the Spanish colonist to treat them with the love all Children of God required. St Juan Diego emptiness changed the course of history for an entire nation.
In his suffering I believe that teen’s grandfather was able to cry in the same words that the Psalmist cried in Psalm 22. I believe that he was able that in his suffering he shared in the suffering of Jesus’ death on the cross as he cried out the 22nd Psalm. In that suffering he was able to empty himself in humility and magnify that love that God showed him on his deathbed. For as soon as he was baptized the God took him from this earth and allowed his suffering to end, so that he may see the glory that comes after our sufferings, Heaven. There is no greater message we can hear then, “Well done, good and faithful servant, … enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:21)”