There are some songs everyone knows. They are more than classics, they are somehow part of the fundamental human experience. One of those songs is Ode to Joy, by Beethoven. It has so many different lyric sets, is sung in nearly every key and language. When you hear this song, you know the rhythm, the next notes, even if you aren’t a musician.
This morning, a new pianist was sitting at the piano before Mass began. She was playing Ode to Joy. However, the tempo was a bit off. Not all the chords resolved exactly on point. Some parts were a bit faster than necessary, others slower. As a musician, I found myself judging the music. “It’s not bad,” I told myself, “but it sure isn’t great either. Is this what we are in for all of Mass?” Can you hear my sigh of relief when the regular pianist walked over for the entrance hymn?
What a way to start the Eucharist. While I consider myself a musician, piano is not my instrument of choice. There is no way I could play Ode to Joy, or any other piece of music for that matter, with as much competency as the young woman did before Mass began. There I was, judging her mistakes and inconsistent melody, while my own life’s song was full of discord.
I enjoy analogies to life being a grand song, or a large tapestry – that life is some great work of art that we all participate in but are unable to see or hear the whole of, that is God’s job. But how often do we find ourselves trying to assume the role of the master, while we are but students?
At the conclusion of Mass, my sigh of relief turned to a sigh of doubt. The young woman was back and at the piano. Ode to Joy was the final song. She had been practicing before Mass. “Oh man, I hope this goes ok.” I thought to myself.
What a doubter I was! The cantor announced the song, everyone raised their books and voices. It was beautiful. Were there wrong notes, maybe. Did I hear them? No. I was too busy being embraced by the swell of music coming from my whole community. Together, we made this music in praise to God. Together, we became one voice. Was every voice on pitch, probably not. Was my own perfect? For sure not!
God intended us for community. To work together, to sing together, to praise together. Not one of us is perfect and it is not our place to judge one another’s lack of perfection. I hope that at some point today, you feel the embrace of your community as you work together, whoever and wherever your community is. Together, we are striving to get to the Kingdom of God.
Well it’s been a while and a lot has changed since I shared the Lenten devotionals for this year. We’ve moved to Kansas as Ben will be flying a new plane for the Air Force. We also were blessed in March to have baby number 6 join the clan. Nathan Patrick is doing wonderfully and just started smiling this week. He has filled our family with so much joy as each sibling squeals with delight when he gives them his goofy baby grin.
Ben has had a significant amount of training for his new assignment which has kept him from home. We continue to marvel at how fortunate and blessed we are to have parents with such flexible schedules. I am not sure how we all would have survived without the help of our moms and dads during this time. Big shout out to our families – we love you!
Perhaps you are already in the know, but only since my mom was with me to help with the kids did I begin watching the TV series The Chosen. My mom mentioned watching the first few episodes and enjoying it, though hadn’t gotten far and wanted to start at the beginning again. I hadn’t watched any and had some reservations about how the story would be told. But, I went along with her desire and I am so glad that I did!
I have found many things fascinating about this show. I love how it’s asking the viewer to really pause and consider all that went into following Jesus. The logistics, the questions, the backgrounds and social complications. I have found most of the assumptions and explorations into the lives of the apostles to be plausible and worth considering. I also very much appreciate that the writer has found consultants from Jewish, Evangelical and Catholic backgrounds to help find balance and respect for the vast range of tradition encompassed in these stories.
I have especially enjoyed seeing how Mary has been involved in the story. While she isn’t in every episode, she is clearly one of the group and the apostles listen to what she has to say.
I watched the most recent episode as of this posting (Season 2 Episode 4) twice because I wanted to catch everything in a conversation Jesus has with the apostles and Mary over dinner. Big James (James the son of Zebedee) questions Jesus about the feasibility of a particular prophecy concerning Jews and Gentiles coming together being fulfilled. “How can this be possible?” He and the other apostles ask, looking expectantly at Jesus. After going back and forth a few times, it’s not Jesus who ultimately satisfies them, it’s Mary. Mary looks around the table and simply says,
I know a thing or two about prophecies that sound impossible.
The impact of Mary’s words, of her presence at the table, cannot be overstated. I can imagine now, better than before, just how radical Jesus’ very presence was for the apostles. If they truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then all the old prophecies about about peace among nations, Jews and Greeks coming together, lame walking and the blind seeing – everything ought to be coming true.
They had witnessed healings, so those prophecies seemed easy now. They had experienced them firsthand. But others seemed more impossible to come true. How could all the nations come together to worship the King, they were enemies after all.
The power of Mary’s witness to the possibility of the impossible causes everyone to expand their imagination. Not only is the Messiah present before us, but here is His mother. She, who is human, draws them into the impossibility of what happened to her so that she can direct them to her Son, the fruit of that impossibility.
There is a famous Byzantine icon of Mary which is called the Hodegetria, translated from Greek to mean, “The One who Shows the Way.” I love this icon of Mary in all it’s forms. Mary is shown holding Jesus. While Mary is the larger of the two, you are still drawn to the figure of Christ because of how Mary is positioned. Her eyes are fixed on you, the one experiencing the icon. Her hand not holding Jesus is extended, her fingers often a bit elongated, in an open hand gesture toward her Son. She is not the point, her purpose isn’t to draw attention to herself. She is there to draw you in through her gaze and then gently bring you to her Son, the Messiah. In this moment of the show, I was immediately felt the iconic weight of what she said and how she said it. She was not drawing attention to her own prophecy’s fulfillment, but rather used it to gently draw the apostles into that new space of the possible that Jesus was trying to present to them.
For a show that is not explicitly Catholic, I found this a very Catholic moment and I loved it! If you haven’t given The Chosen a try, I highly encourage you to. The first few episodes, in my opinion, take some getting used to as the show settles in. It really hits its stride around episode 4 or 5 and has an awesome conclusion to Season 1.
I’d love to know your thoughts about the show! Have you watched it, what did you like or dislike. Did you have any particularly moving moments? The app is free to download and watch all the episodes. Or you can find most of them on YouTube.
Oh man, Lent is practically here! As I promised in my last post, I’ve been scurrying around finishing up the Lenten Lectio Divina journal. For this year, as with last year as well, there is only the Lectio Divina journal, no reflection journal. This is for two main reasons.
I have struggled to come up with a reflection journal idea/format that is similar to the Advent ones and also works within the whole scope of the season of Lent. I can figure out how to reflect toward the upcoming Sunday, as I did one year in Advent, or looking back to carry the previous Sunday into the week, as I did another Advent year. This works just fine until you get to Holy Week. I almost need 2 journals, one that deals with Lent, and a second that focuses on Holy Week and the Triddum. Maybe next year.
Lent happens fast y’all! I still feel like we are just exiting the Christmas season. I did a great job getting started on Advent early last year (they were ready and done in October – can you imagine!?) but didn’t keep my momentum up during our transition that happened this winter. We have moved from Texas to Kansas. Moving and writing did not go hand in hand for me. With this in perspective, I’m so happy to have finished the Lectio Divina journals since I didn’t really have brain space for anything else.
Ok, to the good stuff. I did manage the booklet format that I did this past Advent. So there are the two print options. The first, per usual, is the print, staple and go. Everything is in order from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
For those of you brave souls who want to make a booklet, there’s that option too. I did not get any negative feedback about the format from Advent, so my fingers are crossed it went well for you since that is what I based this journal on. You will need to print double sided and then fold down the middle. Again, please test your printer with the first few pages before going for the whole thing unless you regularly print double sided and know your machine well.
Also listed here is the blank page that you can print as many times as you would like. This page is useful if you prefer to select your own verse for reflection. It is also especially helpful during Lent if your parish does not have any candidates or catechumens. During Lent, the 3rd-5th Sundays of Lent have a few readings options. The Scrutiny readings (which I have chosen to use for the journal) are used if the parish has candidates (people who are already baptized but need to receive their First Eucharist and/or Confirmation to complete their Sacraments of Initiation) or catechumens (persons who are seeking to receive all 3 Sacraments of Initiation) are at Mass. If they are not present, or the parish does not have any that year, the regularly cycled readings are used. You can find both options on the USCCB’s website.
These journals are completely FREE to print. However, due to the copyright restrictions, you are not supposed to print 100 copies to pass out at your parish or slid under your neighbors’ doors. You can, however, use this link in your bulletin announcements, to share with your Bible study group, post on your Facebook page, etc.
It is such an honor to write these journals. It brings me so many blessings and I hope they do for you as well. I hope you have a purposeful, peaceful and hopeful Lenten season.