Learning, Singing and Moving according to the Lord’s Advent Music, Second Friday of Advent, December 9, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
December 9, 2016
Is 48, Ps 1, Mt 11:16-19


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • As we have been pondering, Advent involves a triple dynamism: the Lord comes, we go out to meet him with lighted lamps, and then transformed by the encounter with the Bridegroom we continue to journey with him and finish together with him his mission.
  • When we go out to meet him, it’s key that we allow him to transform us. In the Gospel today, Jesus says that many of us don’t encounter him with that in mind. He describes his generation — and frankly every generation — like children in marketplaces “sitting,” in other words, not wanting to move. They’re playing different music and want everyone to respond to that music: if they play the flute, they want people to dance; if they play a dirge, they want people to mourn. The key is that they want to set the terms of the interaction. They want the others to move. That’s what Jesus was saying they were doing with God’s messenger and God himself. They criticized John the Baptist for his ascetically fasting; and when Jesus wasn’t fasting because he was showing us how to rejoice because the Bridegroom was with us, they criticized him for drawing close in mercy to the hedonists like the tax collectors and other sinners, who were enjoying the things of this world in a disordered way. They failed to grasp that it’s we who should be dancing to the Lord’s music and not the other way around.
  • Often we, too, try to play the music for our relationship with the Lord. We play soft, sentimental hits and want the Lord just to touch our emotions. Or we’ll play marches and want the Lord to ship others around us into shape and boss them around like a drill sergeant. Or we’ll play horror movie music to try to “scare the hell” out of people. Or we’ll play heavy metal and drown out the Lord’s whisper. Or we won’t play any music at all, because we’re in a bad mood, or hate music, or can’t sing, or anything else. The point is that we need to attune ourselves to what the Lord is playing. In the first reading, God tells us through Isaiah, “I, the Lord, your God,
    teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.” We need to allow him to teach and guide us, rather than our seeking to teach him how the world, our life and the lives of those around us should run. We need to follow him rather than, like Peter when Jesus called him “Satan,” try to lead him. We need to learn in all of these ways to sing with him a new song. In this kairos of mercy, we should be singing, “Misericordias tuas in aeternum cantabo!,” “I will sing of your mercies forever!” Is this time where faith is needed, we should be chanting “Let it be done to me according to your word” and “Faith of our Fathers.” In this time in which there’s such a need for the joy of the Gospel, we should be singing the “Magnificat.” But as we sing them, we’re supposed to be singing them in a new way, with all we have.
  • The Psalmist describes the type of fruit we’ll produce when we align ourselves to the Lord’s music, when we delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on his law day and night: we will be like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. When we listen to what the Lord teaches us for our own good and allow him to lead us on the way we should go, hearkening to his commandments, as Isaiah tells us, we will spiritually prosper like a river. But if we don’t, if we want to remain in control, the Psalmist tells us we will be like chaff, dead airy matter with no holy solidity, blown away by our whims.
  • Today on this feast of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, we are able to see in a beautiful way the transition from singing a good tune to singing the Lord’s tune. This 57-year-old man was chosen by Mary 485 years ago today to participate in a special way in helping a whole continent to sing in God’s choir. When the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill on December 9, 1531, he was a simple, humble, 57 year-widower known for walking with his head down and shuffling his feet. He had been baptized only seven years before by the Franciscan missionaries. He soon became a fervent believer. Every Saturday and Sunday he would walk 15 miles each way to Mass. As he was journeying one cold Saturday morning, he heard a voice calling from the top of a hill, “Juanito,” “Dieguito,” “Come here!” He scaled the rocky slope, where at the top he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary arrayed in splendor. Our Lady announced she was on a mission of mercy and wanted him to be her emissary to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga of Mexico City to have him build a church on Tepeyac Hill. Obeying simply and immediately, he headed in his simple peasant’s outfit to the episcopal residence, where he was forced to wait for hours in an outdoor courtyard. Eventually the bishop received him, treated him with kindness, but basically, despite Juan Diego’s obvious sincerity, as a little deluded. Juan Diego left feeling like a complete failure. Returning at once to Our Lady on Tepeyac Hill, he said that he had struck out. “I beg you, Noble Lady,” he implored, “to entrust this message to someone of importance, someone well-known and respected, so that your wish will be accomplished. For I am only a lowly peasant and you, my Lady, have sent me to a place where I have no standing. Forgive me if I have disappointed you for having failed in my mission.” He thought that Our Lady should choose an opera singer to go in order to grasp the bishop’s attention, not a humble servant like him. But Our Lady smiled tenderly on him and said, “Listen to me, my dearest son, and understand that I have many servants and messengers whom I could charge with the delivery of my message. But it is altogether necessary that you should be the one to undertake this mission and that it be through your mediation and assistance that my wish should be accomplished. I urge you to go to the Bishop again tomorrow. Tell him in my name and make him fully understand my disposition, that he should undertake the erection of the teocalli (temple) for which I ask. And repeat to him that it is I in person, the ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who send you.” Mary didn’t strictly speaking need Juan Diego. She could have appeared to the Bishop himself. But she wanted to incorporate him in this saving mission. She wanted to teach him a tune and help him to learn confidently to sing it. Likewise she wants to involve each of us, no matter how unqualified we feel or may in fact be. So after that second meeting with our Lady, Juan Diego went with trepidation to see the bishop a second time. He feared what the bishop’s overprotective servants might do to him. They greeted him with ill-concealed exasperation. He was told the bishop was busy with more important matters. He told them he was willing to wait — and did, for several hours in the frigid outdoor courtyard. When he finally met the bishop again, he repeated, with fervor and tears, the message of Our Lady entrusted to him. The bishop asked some questions. Though moved by Juan Diego’s sincerity, he wasn’t going to build a church in a desolate spot on the basis of one native’s unsubstantiated word. To test the message, the bishop asked him for a special secret sign from Our Lady. Juan Diego left at once to ask for the sign. Arriving back at Tepeyac, the Virgin told him to return the following day to receive the sign to bring the bishop. That sign turned out to be Castillian roses, which had not yet been introduced to Mexico, growing on the top of a stony hill in frigid December temperatures. Juan Diego was instructed to bring them back to the bishop in his tilma, or outer parka. When he returned to the bishop, as he opened up his tilma, the bishop saw the roses from his native Castille, the sign he was seeking. He and everyone else also saw something even more miraculous: some of the roses had melted into the tilma and produced the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: our Lady, dressed like a pregnant Aztec princess, was giving witness that she was ready to give birth to Christ among the Mexican people.
  • It’s easy when we pray with the image to focus on our Lady or on the scientific tests done as signs of its authenticity. Various tilmas like it of maguey-fiber (ayate) fabric have been made as controls and they all begin decomposing, even behind glass, after about 20 years, and yet the image itself is present without any decomposition after 485 years. Studies have been done about how an image could get and stay on a tilma like that, showing that it defies human means; infrared studies have shown that there was no trace of paint at all and that the fabric hadn’t been treated with a means to receive paint. And my favorite is what has been discovered with regard to the eyes. With high-tech zooms magnifying the image 2500 times, it’s been discovered that 13 highly detailed figures are present in the iris and pupil of her eyes, in the left and right eyes, as would happen when human eyes reflect the objects before them. The figures seem to be all those who would have been present in the Bishop’s room when Juan Diego unfurled the tilma, including the Bishop himself, shown as a balding, elderly man with a white beard, matching portraits of him at the time. Such optical information would be impossible for anyone to paint, not only because of the microscopic detail but also because the science of the eye and how images are processed in reflection (the Purkinje effect) not known at the time. At a theological level, it shows that the Blessed Virgin always has us in the apple of the eye. She’s looking at all of us now with love. We’re not only in her eyes but in her heart. But what I would like to focus on far more today on St. Juan Diego’s feast day is that, with the possible exception of the Shroud of Turin, St. Juan Diego’s tilma is now the most famous piece of clothing of all time. His outer garment became part of the message Our Lady had given him. His clothing became part of the song he was asked to see. He had gone from thinking he was unworthy to sing to having his life become part of the music.
  • Today we ask the Lord to help us have the same transition, to leave behind our desire to sing at our speed, at our pitch, with our version of the lyrics, with the melody that might please us most, to singing his Song which is ever new. We ask him to help us, like St. Juan Diego, to synchronize ourselves to the Lord’s music so that as we go out to meet the Lord who is coming we can begin that dance with him that the Carmelite doctors of the Church tell us is meant to last into eternity.


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 IS 48:17-19

Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.

Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (see John 8:12) Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord will come; go out to meet him!
He is the prince of peace.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:16-19

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”