Summary: Support our music ministry
September 9 2012
23rd Sunday in Course
The eyes of the blind are opened, and the ears of the deaf are unstopped, the lame walk and the mute shout for joy. The poor come to worship with the rich and all are treated alike. And Jesus is the center of it all. The one who came to serve, and heal, and die for us and rise again so that we might have new life stands as the One in whom, and through whom, and with whom we glorify God, our almighty Father. Isn’t that a vision of the heavenly Liturgy, and shouldn’t that be what we experience, however dimly, when we come to Mass?
Our psalm today speaks to us of the mighty works of God, who sets free those imprisoned by sin, who heals the brokenhearted and frustrates the plans of the wicked. We believe that God has either done those things, or has plans to accomplish them in the life of the Church, the Body of Christ. In other words, as the Gospel of John teaches, day by day He continues to work for our good. And so the last words of our psalm should be our constant hymn: praise the Lord. Or, in Hebrew, Alleluia!
Let’s go further. St. Paul teaches that we should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of the Lord in Christ Jesus for you. Our destiny is to be in as perfect union with God, the Trinity, as is possible for man. Our destiny is to follow Jesus and His Mother into the eternal embrace of the Father, body, soul and spirit. Our destiny is Resurrection, where all sorrow, sin and sickness has been healed by the touch of the Master. How, then, can we keep from praising and thanking this loving God? How, then, can we keep from breaking out into song, with all creation joining in chorus?
Give thanks in all circumstances. Really? What if I’m out of work, or sick, or alone? What if all I feel like doing is curl up in a fetal position and moan? Why would I give thanks even at a time like that? Because this is the will of the Lord in Christ Jesus for you. God’s will is for your good. We give thanks and praise, especially in this Eucharistic sacrifice, because it is good for me. It is good for you. And, I dare say, it is in giving thanks and praise to the Father while we are in pain that we are most like our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that he prayed all of Psalm 22 on the cross. The prayer that begins “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” ends with a mighty hymn: I will praise you Lord, in the assembly of the faithful. What begins in a deep pit on Good Friday ends with Resurrection. And that is the ultimate will of God in Christ Jesus for you, and me. Are you a prisoner of some vice? It is God’s will to set you free. Are you blind to some important spiritual truth? It is God’s will that you may see clearly. Are you feeling half-dead, or are you really physically dying? It is God’s will that you rise with Jesus and in Him in a spiritual body free from every pain, in eternal bliss because you are in perfect union with the One you have been seeking all your life. And your taking communion today, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, is the present pledge of that future reality.
This Eucharistic sacrifice is thus called a sacrifice of praise, and a remembrance, which is a making present, of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. What is our weakness with respect to this divine gift? We forget. We get tied up in the day-to-day world of study and commerce and politics and we forget. So when we gather here God gives us His Word as not just a memory-jogger, but as a living reality that should overwhelm our petty daily concerns. Wonderfully, that Word now surrounds us through the whole Mass. The first words we hear in the Introit are the Word of God, chanted so even those who just visit us for the first time can hear–we are people of the Word. We sing the psalm between the scriptures; even the Gospel acclamation is from the Scriptures. And, most beautifully, as the priest and communion ministers receive the living sacred body and blood, soul and divinity of the Savior, the cantor or choir chants the Word of God, even as they take the Word of God. We can never forget the gift, the sacrifice, because we breathe the remembrance, we are surrounded by the Word.
Let’s be honest, beloved of God, about what is of critical importance. It is not the unemployment rate or the gross national product or even who is elected in seven weeks. The only issue of critical importance to your family is whether you, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children and grandchildren finish their life’s trajectory in the arms of God, or in everlasting fire. It is a cosmic tragedy whenever anyone is lost. So the new evangelization must succeed. We must attract the non-Christian, the unchurched, the fallen away back to our communion. If we don’t, all of us suffer. Millions are looking for Ultimate goodness, truth and beauty. Yet Hollywood and the media have confused them. They are looking for the good in bad places. They think, like Pilate, that there is no absolute truth. The only way to get the attention of the lost is to hit them in the face with beauty–the frieze of the Holy Spirit’s descent on Mary and the apostles facing Blanco road, the magnificent acoustics of our narthex and prayer chapel, our prayer-inspiring statuary and stations. And, one more thing, the kind of music that Vatican Council II yearned for and experienced, the kind that you don’t hear every day. Chant, modern and ancient choral compositions, a first-rank choir that can lead congregational singing and inspire our common yearning for the transcendent.