Isaiah Week 3: Music and Flowers

(December 11, 2022)

Bottom line: Beauty, e.g. music and flowers, can open us the mystery of God - the God who strengthens and heals. . .

This Sunday is called "Guadate" which means "rejoice". Before talking about reasons for joy, let's take a look back. On November 27 (First Sunday of Advent) we heard Isaiah's prophecy about people streaming toward the Lord's mountain so God can instruct us in his ways. When we do that, we beat our swords into plowshares or like they did down Culiacan where they forged guns into shovel heads. You and I can sometimes use words like daggers, but Jesus wants to transform them into instruments of peace.

Last Sunday we heard a prophecy about Jesus - the shoot that would spring from the stump of Jesse. Jesse is father of King David. When Jesus came, people cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Take away my blindness, cleanse my leprosy.

Today we hear Isaiah's prophecy about the desert blooming: "The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song." We can see this in Mary's appearance to Juan Diego. Before he saw Mary, he heard music that entranced him. Here's quotes from the Nican Mopohua, an early account of the apparitions:

"And as he (Juan Diego) drew near the little hill called Tepeyac it was beginning to dawn. He heard singing on the little hill, like the song of many precious birds; when their voices would stop, it was as if the hill were answering them; extremely soft and delightful"

Juan Diego continues: "their songs exceeded the songs of the coyoltotl and the tzinitzcan and other precious birds. Juan Diego stopped to look. He said to himself: "By any chance am I worthy, have I deserved what I hear? Perhaps I am only dreaming it? Perhaps I'm only dozing?"

He tries to make sense of what he is experiencing. Perhaps he is in the "land of flowers" - Where am I? Where do I find myself? Is it possible that I am in the place our ancient ancestors, our grandparents, told about, in the land of the flowers, in the land of corn, of our flesh, of our sustenance, possibly in the land of heaven?"

Juan Diego is now a canonized saint. He shows us something important: how beauty can lead a person God. St. Juan Diego would encounters something more beautiful even than music and flowers. To find out more come to Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass Monday at 6 pm. It will be in Spanish with some English.

Our Lady fulfills a couple other elements of Isaiah's prophecy. First, she intercedes to give us strength.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!

The vision of music and flowers brought Juan Diego out of himself, took away his fears. It would also lead to healing:

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

When Mary appeared to Juan Diego, his life was in turmoil because of the illness of his Uncle Bernardino. Mary told Juan Diego to trust. Am I not your mother? she asked. She did in fact visit Bernardino and by her prayers, God healed him. Last month I was suffering from back pain. Just getting out of bed, felt like torture. At our monthly support group - called Jesus Caritas - the priests prayed over me and I experienced immediate relief. It continued through the car ride home, but next day started coming back. The young priest who prayed over me told me to claim my healing and in the name of Jesus rebuke any pain and swelling. I can't say I am able to leap like a stag, but I am grateful for the relief God gave me.

How does this apply to our behavior in church? I mentioned that when you come before the altar, you should make a profound bow - a bow of the body. When you stand before a sacred image, you can make a simple bow, a bow of the head. Our church structure emphasizes the centrality of Jesus who becomes present on the altar as the Lamb of God. But we do not neglect the principal saints and devotions: Our Lady of the Valley, St. Joseph, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Divine Mercy. These images can help focus our prayer and ultimately lead us to Jesus.

Next Sunday we have a prophecy specifically about Mary: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel. What leads up to this prophecy I think you will find interesting, even surprising. For today we see that beauty, e.g. music and flowers, can open us the mystery of God - the God who strengthens and heals. Amen.

1.	"Que se alegre el desierto y se cubra de flores, que florezca como un campo de lirios, que se alegre y dé gritos de júbilo."  

2.	Y al llegar cerca del cerrito llamado Tepeyac ya amanecía. Oyó cantar sobre el cerrito, como el canto de muchos pájaros finos; al cesar sus voces, como que les respondía el cerro, sobremanera suaves, deleitosos, 

3.	sus cantos sobrepujaban al del coyoltototl y del tzinitzcan y al de otros pájaros finos. Se detuvo a ver Juan Diego. Se dijo: ¿Por ventura soy digno, soy merecedor de lo que oigo? ¿Quizá nomás lo estoy soñando?¿Quizá solamente lo veo como entre sueños?

4.	¿Dónde estoy? ¿Dónde me veo? ¿Acaso allá donde dejaron dicho los antiguos nuestros antepasados, nuestros abuelos: en la tierra de las flores, en la tierra del maíz, de nuestra carne, de nuestro sustento; acaso en la tierra celestial?
5.	Fortalezcan las manos cansadas, afiancen las rodillas vacilantes. Digan a los de corazón apocado: '¡Ánimo! No teman.!

6.	Se iluminarán entonces los ojos de los ciegos y los oídos de los sordos se abrirán. Saltará como un venado el cojo y la lengua del mudo cantará.

7.	He aquí que la virgen concebirá y dará a luz un hijo, a quien pondrán el nombre de Emmanuel

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Resisting Happiness Week 2 - Tourist or Pilgrim? (Audio homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year A 2016)

Faith & Inclusion (Audio homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Second Sunday of Advent Year A):

2016: Resisting Happiness Week 2: Tourist or Pilgrim?
2013: Faith & Inclusion
2010: Silence, Sin, Spirit
2007: That We Might Have Hope
2004: The Leopard, the Lion and the Wolf
2001: Change Your Life!
1998: Holy Spirit and Fire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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