Music for Living

15 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Jer. 2:4-13 • Ps. 81:1, 10-16

Alternate: Sir. 10:12-18 or Prov. 25:6-7Ps. 112 • Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16 • Luke 14:1,7-14

Music rolls through the room, and if it is does what good music should do, the hearer rides the rhythm, floats upon the feeling of what is good, what is sorrowful, what is lost, what is found. A singer chants the refrain, “You’ve got to hold on,” and the whole crowd swells with a funky hopefulness. Everyone becomes what the music is. Thus, beware. You are not an unmoved monad. Your flesh is soft and your senses open and you are always being led and conformed to the things you hear and see and taste and imagine. Looking at an icon, for instance, you may be a God-bearer. Taking the chalice and holding the holy bread, the blood is warmed and the flesh quickened for the living of these days. Turning to things cheap and vile, the law is still fixed. They “went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves” (Jer. 2:5).

Why do we turn from a fountain of living water? Why sip from the stagnant pools of our own creation? Why do we choose what is less and cheap and demeaning, and allow ourselves thus to be formed? Are we appalled, are we shocked at times to see the desolate lives we humans live (Jer. 2:12)? As if with voracious claws, we cling to abominations. Not always and everywhere, of course, for the image of God is still in us; the desire for deity, however obscured, is in us all calling us ever to goodness, truth, and beauty. Still, there resides in us also a contorted pride and a violent anger for which we were not created (Sir. 10:13, 18). Something is terribly wrong, and the beginning of wisdom is to know this.

The correction comes by the wholesale reorientation of human life toward its own proper end, Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the beginning and the end of all our days. If we rise with him, sip our coffee with him, converse with his holy word, go about the business of obligation and duty and love while holding the heart close to him, we become mysteriously what he is. Being a son or daughter of God, our hearts swell and our hospitality extends to people as yet unknown. The stranger is noble, gifted with reason, admirable, a reflection of grace, a home for trinitarian love. The imprisoned and abused are fellow humans, the ones for whom Christ came. The beauty of the bedroom is guarded because one’s wife or husband is ever the mysterious presence of an irreplaceable human being. Let love be loving and guard it with wisdom. A son or daughter of God often sings praises to the most high, is given to good works willingly and with a cheerful heart (Hebrews).

Returning to a cascade of sound, the music rolls on and on, and the heart rides with it. We are so happy if what we hear and sing, says Augustine, we do (Sermo 23 A, 1-4: CCL 41, 321-23)! Sensing that we are sons and daughters of the living God, we feel an intense call to so live. Walk in my ways. See with my eyes. Feel the strength of resurrection and exaltation. Know that your death died in my death. I, deathless life, speak to you and walk with you and live in you. “Sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet” (Ps. 81:2-3). Listen to the music of an apostolic creed and so live, not from your own strength, but from the coursing strength of the one whom death could not hold.

Look It Up
Read Luke 14:1, 7-14.

Think About It
But I say unto you, “I often sit with the disabled and I am always repaid.”


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