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.