Turning a blind eye, looking down on someone, seeing right through them, the cold shoulder: not really listening with your heart and mind. These are metaphors for someone with a lack of empathy—persons condescending, patronizing or dismissive of others—for whatever reason they may have. You all know of this kind of behavior: it usually stems from an inequality of power—whether financial, social, political or inter-personal. A growing body of research shows that people with little power are treated this way by those “higher status” persons. Any power between peoples is relative; but it seems that any person “above” any other tends to act this way—in any strata of relationship.
Today in the First Reading from the Old Testament we hear the story of Solomon’s petition to God for an understanding heart (for wisdom), for discernment in right and wrong—right judgment—instead of wealth, riches, vigor, fame and power. Solomon demonstrates to us just what real treasure is: real treasure is the wisdom that will help us choose to always seek first the kingdom of heaven—mercy, love and compassion in all instances. This is the way that leads to everlasting life: actions of love before all other things in this world. Real wisdom is an understanding heart.
The Gospel today refers to this wisdom, this attitude, as: “a pearl of great price.” This is true and lasting treasure! After all this time we still speak of the Wisdom of Solomon and pearls of wisdom—and with good reason! God gives the answer to Solomon’s request: an understanding heart. Solomon chose something that would be of greater benefit to those with whom he was charged to care for and to serve. Chances are good that he listened carefully to what people had to say to him—although he was wealthy, famous and king.
In the same research mentioned earlier about status and treatment, it was found that most of us focus on what we value most—our personal “pearl of great price.” While the powerful can buy what they need, those of us with less assets depend on each other. (This makes me think of the Scripture about the rich man, the camel and the eye of a needle…) The research suggests that those with less are more attuned to those around them and their sufferings and challenges in this life. Thinking about this means that there are profound implications for our society and our governmental policies by those who govern us. Being aware and empathetic to others leads to understanding, mercy, compassionate aid and action—action we are called to by our Baptism as Christians. We are called to consider walking in another’s shoes in order to understand someone else’s crosses in this life; and like Simon the Cyrenian, help them to carry those crosses—not make them heavier and harder to bear.
Do we have as much care and concern for those around us as Solomon? Do we ask God for an understanding heart when faced with difficult situations, hurtful moments, our aggravating relatives, demanding neighbors, unhappy and dissatisfied customers, or just dealing with irritating people every day? Like Solomon, I think we all need to pray for an understanding heart for ourselves and those around us—and also and especially, for those who have a mantle of authority in public service: those who need and could use Solomon’s “pearl of great price” in their governance.
There is no reason why we shouldn’t (at least sometimes) experience the kingdom of heaven here on earth—even in the midst of this pandemic. It does, however, depend on right judgment, mercy, love and compassion—and the ability for us and our leaders to all have an understanding heart. Food for thought...
Keep singing in your understanding hearts!
Just a Note: I thought you might enjoy this young student Catholic choir singing: “Jubilate” (Be Joyful in the Lord). A good reminder in the midst of our everyday struggles.
Go to: American Federation of Pueri Cantores and listen to Jubilate! sung in Zoom.
“Good ground for hope…”
Hope. The promise of all good in the midst of…whatever, a pandemic. As Christians, we should be people of hope. We know we should have every reason to be optimistic, to set aside cynicism and believe in the good to come. Hopefulness, by definition, is a future-oriented virtue. Sometimes we get caught up in our present condition that we can’t see beyond our current state of difficulties and feel that it is: “always winter but never Christmas” (from Narnia).
If we desire to be hopeful people, we need to understand that faith—which is the basis for hope—is not dependent on any circumstance. We are assured by God that all of our lives (past, present, future) are in His hands—more capably than in our own.
The First Reading from the Book of Wisdom talks about how God uses clemency to judge, lenience in His governance, how God is kind—and so we have good ground for hope that in spite of ourselves we will be forgiven and loved unconditionally. Oh, that we humans would follow this example of governance! I have hope that this could happen… St. Paul tells us today that the Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness…” And just when we do need Him, I think.
Jesus today speaks in many parables: good seed sown with weeds that are all allowed to continue growing together until the harvest; a mustard seed (the tiniest of seeds) that grows into a large and generous bush; a small amount of yeast that yields a lot of loaves. Hopefulness is demonstrated in these parables in that those who are good will be gathered up in spite of the weeds, who will receive their just reward (a fiery furnace); and how something so small—a mustard seed or yeast—can result in a huge blessing for all.
Small things can point us toward large moments of hope—and I encourage you to open your eyes to these moments. We all grieve many things (choral singing!) that have been lost from our lives during this pandemic—and the list is long and varied. But we have also gained much, too: we have been forced into some different perspectives of our world, our relationships, our economic systems, justice, our stewardship of all our world’s resources—sometimes our very core values re-evaluated. The list of blessings is long as a result of circumstance—and some wisdom may be won by us because of it. That makes me hopeful.
This week I found that I could get library books from our Livonia Main Library—something that for a long while I was unable to do. They have worked out a safe method for borrowing and returning books—a new format—just like I hope, I know, we will find ways to keep safe and continue on in our lives. Optimism, positive thinking—hopefulness. God (the Lord of All Hopefulness) reminds us that when nothing else remains; hope, with faith and love will remain. We will find a way through all of this time of Covid—and do hope—and do believe—come out the better for all of it in the end.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: This lovely piece of music brought tears to my eyes…and gave me hope for our future in music. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Camden Voices: True Colors
“Although I have often abandoned you, O Lord, you have never abandoned me. Your hand of love is always outstretched toward me, even when I stubbornly look the other way. And your gentle voice calls me, even when I obstinately refuse to listen.” Prayer by Teresa of Avila, Spain (1515-1582)
Psalm 65: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”
I love to garden! When I married Jim Dyc almost twenty years ago we bought a house in Livonia—my very first one to own at 45 years of age! There is something so positive and satisfying about owning our own home: having the responsibility and care of property for our good, our neighbors’ good, and the good of our Community. I started creating gardens in our back (and front) yard—a wide open canvas—and have continued to discover what works, what I like to see, how this life in my hands responds to my caretaking.
I learned a lot over the years from friends, books, the internet and especially by trial and error outside. I learned to be patient with my “product” and to trust in the inherent beauty of life. I learned also that it can be a very physical undertaking—so there is an element of working out: stretching, bending, getting up and down from the ground, carrying weights (heavy pots, soil, rocks and border bricks). I learned that it is generally quiet; a time to think, wonder, worry and pray—and that the outside—God’s lovely Creation—does that for us. We are part of it and it is a part of us. (I actually cry when I see big trees being cut down...)
One of the things I learned about working in my little patch of soil: the roots are the most important (and first) element for a healthy plant. Deep roots offer stability, strength and abundant nourishment. They are an anchor in the midst of any storm. Today all of the Scripture (this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time) speak of sowing seeds, of rain, of the fertility of soil and the fruitfulness/first fruits—all a paradigm for us about the Word being rooted in our hearts and minds; the growth of our spiritual lives; and the fruits of that planting and growth.
So I ask all of us today: does our faith have deep roots? Are we fertile soil in which the Word has been planted?
Jesus reminds us today that the “seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the Word and understands it…” He tells us that this will be a person who “indeed bears fruit and yields” an abundance to the people around them—but that our garden lives must have deep roots planted in the Word and in faith. He asks us to open the eyes of our hearts and the ears of our spirits to hear His message of love, mercy and forgiveness for all people and all Creation. If we are rooted in His message, then all we do and say will be a reflection of Christ. Rooted in His Word we will bear the fruits of justice, charity, kindness, respect and compassion for all living things. (An Eden for all!)
There is a hymn text (refrain) that says: “So the Word came to the world, so the Word came to stretch His arms and die for the world. As He loved, so we live─to sow the Word.” Conversion and action will make us the fertile ground our faith calls us to be. We are called as believers to go out and sow the Word in our actions of love. But first we must open our eyes and ears to check our roots: that they are well placed, grounded in the good soil of a faith Community; nourished by the Word and Eucharist; strengthened and anchored by prayer. Time to get busy in our spiritual gardens…
Keep singing in your hearts and minds!
Work is a blessing from God. To be able to create or produce or serve each other is a gift from God—especially under circumstances of employing and putting to work all those personal gifts and talents you were born with and have spent time developing. There is that saying: “Those who work at what they love, never work a day in their life.” I don’t know that I would go that far—in the work of developing my own musical talents it was mostly all blood, sweat and tears—but yes, a labor of love in the hard work and practice. (If it were easy, everyone could do it.) And there are always things one has to do in any job that you may wish were not a part of job requisites. It is what it is.
So, I was thinking about labor and rest. Particularly as there is a personal situation/family crisis going on with my beloved 95 year old auntie Elizabeth and my two cousins (her children). I know many of you reading this have had to confront this type of situation yourselves: an independent elder who is starting to physically fail (her mind is great still, thanks be to God!)—and you must seek what options exist as how to care for her while working your own job, responsibilities for children and grands, taking care of your and her household responsibilities—a very long, exhausting, endless list of priorities that must be faced and confronted. And right now—in the middle of a global pandemic.
That is hard labor. A labor of love, mostly, but also very awkward, surely inconvenient, and definitely pressured labor in terms of all the other family priorities and issues. And sometimes the labor is even physically impossible for those not experienced for this type of elder care—especially if you are not equipped with what is needed to care for her in the way she should be cared as twilight approaches.
You are not a nurse or health care professional; and you all waited too long to plan and prepare for the inevitable change of life that happens for all of us toward our ends. I am always amazed when I hear an older person say something like, “I never thought I would be this bad/need this much help/suffer so.” Really? That seems counter-intuitive to the aging and decaying we all go through; no one gets out of here alive—although the very graced ones go easily… It is still, if you blessed, very difficult to face a diminution of any abilities, physical or otherwise. I hear many stories in the course of my music ministry—a big part of which is the inevitable funeral at ones’ end, and the trials leading up to it.
So in the meantime, we seek help for our parents/aunties/uncles/etc.: labor for the everyday stuff for his/her care, but it feels like there is no respite or rest in the meantime as you run around trying to solve all the myriad problems with your hair on fire… We Christians should know better—we know that our bodies are a temporary residence for our Spirits. We know we should live with our eyes toward our heavenly journey—and take care of business here, and prepare for our real futures after.
In trying to help out my cousins and my aunt, I see how this labor is too much for them; they are overwhelmed and rest is needed—it’s hard to make big decisions in the midst of a this dire change of life. I know many of you have found yourselves in similar circumstances; this is a part of the life we have here—we should plan ahead for disability and death—because “Change is inevitable. Stress is manageable. Misery is optional.” We should plan for our ultimate life in our everyday living here… but do we? Are we?
I know that ultimately rest will come—because after any of our life’s labor that is what happens—a light at the end, a letting go of the burdens, peace. Jesus tells us today: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Our work, though hard and demanding, is a blessing to those around us—and our reward is eternal and everlasting rest. My advice: labor now, today; labor well as best you can, labor in love. Eye on the prize, people!
Keep singing from your hearts!
Just a Note: This past Saturday we celebrated our Independence Day in the United States. The specific readings for this day, by design and in our Church’s wisdom, are about peace. Personally, on Independence Day, I always think of my Dad, a World War II veteran. As U.S. citizens celebrating Independence Day this weekend, we need to remember the cost that has been paid to purchase our freedom─and not just for a nation, but for all people!
For the Christian, Independence Day doesn't come just once a year. For those who follow Jesus, Independence Day comes every Sunday! On any Sunday we should remember the Lord's Passion and Death and anticipate His return because freedom from death had been won. Our true Independence Day is the day of the Empty Tomb! I am comforted knowing that my Dad, who ‘labored’ for independence, justice and peace, is now living true independence, justice and peace in the heavenly kingdom. May God bless America—and may we begin to live with each other in peace, justice, mercy and love.
I thought you might enjoy this piece of music about true freedom.
Jesus Culture - Freedom (feat. Kim Walker-Smith) (Official ...
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.