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Living the Gospel At Casa Juan Diego

by Angel Valdez

Angel has spent several months working and living at Casa Juan Diego before entering the seminary.

I do not want to sound pretentious with this title and elevate this simple writing to the level of those hagiographers who wrote the inspired books of our Holy Scripture. I ask God to stop my pen and my heart if that is my intention. Gospel means good news or the person who carries the good news was known as Gospel too and may anyone who has ears to hear, listen. I make my own those words of the prologue to the Gospel of Luke and I dedicate this humble writing to you, honorable Theophilus (Teo=God; Filos=Friend) that you may know the truth of what I have here seen and heard.

The Mustard Seed
by Angel Valdez

Casa Juan Diego is located at 4818 Rose, Houston, Texas 77007, but this house could represent many places too. For example, that cave in Bethlehem comes to my mind where Jesus was born, Our Lord from whom everything was created. That place was not the appropriate for our Lord to be born, but as his birth was there, it made it the best place in the world. The cave of Bethlehem (House of Bread) was a cave that functioned as a stable. A place without beauty, perhaps with a bad odor, uncomfortable, unpleasant to the sight and unhealthy, it was not the Marriott or any of the spectacular hotels of Las Vegas. No, it was a rustic cave. This is where Mary and Joseph arrived and turned it into a praiseworthy place where they allowed the possibility for immigrant Kings guided by a star and shepherd pilgrims alerted by celestial angels singing Alleluia to come to worship and to encounter the Emmanuel. This was the meeting point where the divine and human will found refuge. There were also animals, the whole of creation around the Creator. Sadly, God was born among animals because he could not find a place among humankind. But those were not all the performers; we also had to have the Herods, those looking for the child to kill him. They pursued him like rapacious wolves because they saw his threatened position. They made him flee, they beset them, and it didn’t bother them that they split, divided and killed in order to defend their own self-interest.

Casa Juan Diego is also the product of a miracle. It is not difficult to find Jesus in a place like this. He is here, he lives here, he visits us every day hidden behind different faces. I recognize him because he is always, always carrying and dragging a painful and heavy cross. What is sometimes difficult is to have eyes to see and recognize him in those faces.

by Angel Valdez

Casa Juan Diego is a place where I have seen the hand of God multiplying the loaves to feed a crowd. The futile effort of the man who has only five loaves and two fish, insufficient to satisfy the hunger and thirst for all who come, and Jesus transforming our limitations into abundance so that everyone will have enough, sending us to collect and take care of the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.

But I have seen too, those who only come and demand food, brothers who seek to take advantage of the situation. Those who repeatedly return to take the bread and the fish from the others and look for their own benefit. As in the Gospel, Jesus knows that these seek him to receive food which perishes.

I have seen the same miracles at Casa Juan Diego as in the Gospels. The paralytic in Matthew 9, transported by his friends to the feet of Jesus, looking for mitigation of his pain, the lame man without strength at the edge of the sheep gate (called in Hebrew Bethesda) that John recounts in chapter 5. Waiting for the finger of God to touch the waters to be healed. He meets Jesus who, embracing him, heals him with love on that Sabbath day. I can recall the Canaanite woman of Matthew 15, humbling herself to find relief from her misery in Jesus.

I have seen here those ten lepers who were looking for Jesus to be healed from their leprosy. Those lepers calling for healing and relief to their situation obeyed the mandate of Jesus to go and be presented to the priests at the temple and on the way were healed, but only one of them returned full of gratitude to the feet of the master: it was a Samaritan. That happens here too, the others just take the miracle for granted, distracted? Maybe they thought they were healed because they deserved.

What is Casa Juan Diego? Casa Juan Diego is similar to the parable of the mustard seed (Mt.  13:24-30), this tiny grain that a man took in his hand and sowed and the shrub became a tree where birds of many colors, shapes and places come seeking refuge and rest on its branches. Birds with different intentions, stories. Some make their nest here. Others only rest and gather strength to continue on their way. It is a tree that does not have the strength of the oak, the beauty of the cedar, or the majesty of the palm tree. It is more of a shrub where God puts his hand and his gaze to show us his greatness.

I play a role in this House too. I am the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) – the blind man who was introduced to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took me from my village and brought me here, and put saliva in my eyes, put his pierced hands on my eyes. He asked me if I saw something and I replied I saw men as if they were trees that walk, faceless bodies of wood, and without roots and sometimes withered. It was necessary that he return to lay his hands on my eyes again so that I could see with clarity, see the other as a Brother and be able to see clearly all the things around me.

This is the Gospel of the home of Juan Diego. It is not a finished Gospel, it is still being written. Now I make my own the words of John at the close of his Gospel:

I could continue to write all the things I have seen and heard, and what remains to be seen and heard, but if every one of them were written down, I do not think that even the whole world would have room for the books that would be written.”

Viva Cristo Rey


Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXXV, No. 3, June-August 2014.