+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Flores apparuérunt in terra nostra. The flowers appear on the earth.
These words are from the Song of Songs and we heard them sung this morning during the Gradual. They tell us that as Jesus approaches, the winter comes to an end. As Jesus passes by, it is as though His every step melts the snow and He frees the flowers that were somehow hidden underneath. The flowers appear on the earth.
At the heart of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes is the miracle of the spring, the flowing waters that renew the earth. Holy Mary asked Bernadette to kneel and in faith to dig beneath the surface of the Grotto. As Bernadette acted in faith, the pure waters came forth and that which was hidden underneath became visible.
The spring would prove miraculous and a source of healing for many—the snow and winter of illness would melt away and the joy of health in body and soul would bloom.
Since Bernadette’s child-like trust in Mary’s love, thousands if not millions of pilgrims have visited the shrine at Lourdes. I am blessed to be one of them.
And I have found that there are two ways to visit this (and every Marian) shrine: the first is from faith, that humble approach that may not necessarily understand all of the mystery, but which believes something is there; and which so opens itself in receptivity for whatever God has in store for it. The experience is peaceful and often sublime.
The second way is everything else: the curious approach that comes to take something away and a picture of the event; the simply rational approach that comes to solve a mystery; the modern approach that wants a miracle on-demand and leaves wondering why it didn’t happen for them.
For ourselves, I know that there are many who are here who are attending their first Solemn High Mass. For me, I am offering it for the very first time. It is very beautiful and yet a very interesting thing. So much seems to be hidden beneath the surface. Indeed, many will at some point say, “I’m lost. Where are we? I don’t understand." This is totally ok and should be expected—for are we not celebrating “divine mysteries”?
The key is to approach with a faith that is ok and humbled by hidden-ness. That is to say: to spend time at this Holy Mass not trying to simply understand it and in a way conquer it, or even less to be like a tourist that tells Facebook friends of the novelty—but to say to Jesus, “I trust you. Even though I do not understand. I know you are here. And I am here with you. I long to see your face.”
In this way, the waters of Lourdes heal us even now; for they remind us of Bernadette’s simple, child-like faith that trusted in the Motherly guidance of Mary, and which in turn led to the opening and freeing of the miraculous spring. Yes, there is something hidden beneath the surface here. And it is faith that tells us that as Jesus approaches, what is hidden shall soon be seen: The flowers appear on the earth.