These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
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.
God's promise to lead us in the way we should go seems more important this Advent than ever before. We seem to have forgotten the common good, that we are all in this together. But God promises to teach us what is for our good. If only we would listen! The picture today is of the Red Beach on the Greek island, Santorini.
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the clouds rain down the Just One,
and the earth bring forth a Savior. (Is 45:8)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I remember when I discovered that both pairs of my maternal great grandparents moved to California in the 1920’s. I happened to find a letter from one of them describing California as the “Garden of the Earth.” Compared with where they came from, Iowa (originally Denmark) and Kansas (originally Germany), I guess California must have seemed an oasis. I think of that letter from my ancestors when I read Isaiah’s description of water in abundance and of the desert becoming a marshland. May the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior! The picture today is of the Garden of Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516).
The LORD is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
Another message of hope from Isaiah that has been used to express God’s providential care for us—that we may run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Today is the feast of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. His name, Cuauhtlatoatzin, means "he who speaks like an eagle." He received the visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the hill of Tepeyac outside the great city of Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) in December, 1531. After he told his story, over 11 million indigenous inhabitants were baptized. He was canonized by John Paul II in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on July 31, 2002, the first indigenous saint of the Americas. I was there.
The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.
And coming to her, the angel said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
The ancient Fathers and Mothers of the church made a great deal out of these two verses from the scriptures. In Latin the play on words is interesting: Eve=Eva, Hail=Ave. What is most important is God’s plan of salvation. As Saint Paul says: when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman (Gal 4:4). As we prepare to celebrate his coming among us, we contemplate how God’s mysterious plan is fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. The link is to the Ave Maria sung in the African language Igbo by Nnamdi Azikiwe University Choir in Nigeria.
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
The Homecoming we await: another image of Advent—the returning, the coming home—symbolized by a highway, a highway for our God and for us! The photo today is of the Duomo (Cathedral) of Milan, where Saint Ambrose preached. Through the preaching of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine was converted to the faith.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem:
Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
One of the most beautiful prophecies of Isaiah—used very effectively in Handel’s Messiah. Today is also the feast of Saint Nicholas! The picture today is of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas the Great, in Rio Negro, Antioquia, Colombia.
The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.
Better than the GPS in your car . . . we will be guided in the Way of the Lord. The picture today is a painting by Sybil, an elderly lady whom I visited. She gave me the painting just a few days before she died.