Sixth Easter: God Hears Seventy-six Trombones
A number of years ago I received the great blessing of being asked to join one of our Jesu Caritas Groups. Jesu Caritas is a priest support group usually made up of five to seven members and meeting once a month for prayer, reflection on the month and mutual support. We all need people to pray with and support us in our faith, particularly people who face similar challenges as we face. I remember that one of the priests once shared how sometimes our spiritual lives are broken, but most of the time our spiritual lives are just messy. Quite often, we go about things in the wrong way. Quite often we approach God on our terms instead of his. Quite often, we zigzag in our approach to our final union with Him. God sees you also as you are, trying your best, but, sometimes, a bit messy in your spirituality.
I want to tell you about an old Broadway musical and movie. It was called The Music Man. The story takes place in rural America, a certain River City exactly, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The musical begins with a group of salesmen on a train lamenting the success of a scam artist, a so-called Professor Harold Hill. Hill is a salesman who comes into a town and convinces the people that they have a problem and then he uses the perceived problem to sell his goods. So Hill goes to River City, and tells the people that they have a big problem, right there in River City. Their children are on the verge of moral corruption. A pool hall has been constructed. Pool halls were notorious in those days as places of corruption where bad language became the norm. Their children in River City were learning bad things. However, he, Professor Harold Hill, just happen to have a great solution to the problem. The children needed something to do. And he had just the thing. He suggested that a healthy release for the kids would be to form a band. In addition, it just so happened that he could supply the uniforms, music and instruments. He even offered to teach music to the children. He would make that offer, but usually after he was paid for the music, uniforms and instruments; he took off, headed out of town. However, Harold Hill came upon an unforeseen situation in River City. He fell in love, in love with the town librarian, a certain Marian. That is right, Marian the librarian. So he found himself saddled with having to teach music to the children, even though he really didn't know anything about music. In the final scene of the musical, the children gave their first performance for their parents. They were horrible. It was a complete cacophony. But the parents thought they were wonderful. To their parents they were a fantastic marching band playing Seventy-six Trombones in the Big Parade.
God is like those parents. God hears the cacophony of our lives, but also sees the determined effort. The results may be messy, but the Loving Father joins the parents and saying, "Wasn't that just wonderful."
So, your marriage and family did not turn out as you wished. So your career took a detour, two, or seven. So you did not get into that college you wanted. So we have made bad choices in the past that have left their impact on our lives now. We all have situations that might lead us to think we are broken, but we are not broken. We are just messy. We may not be as grand as the ideal, but when we play the spiritual instruments of our lives, do you know what God hears? God hears Seventy-six trombones, not a cacophony.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
Those words come from the First Letter of Peter, our second reading. Peter was a buffoon who tried to walk out on water to Jesus but nearly drowned because he lost faith. Peter was a braggart who denied the Lord three times. But Peter wanted to better. He wanted to serve Jesus. Eventually, through God's grace, he conquered his fears; he controlled his emotions; he became the first Vicar of Christ.
We have a reason for hope. That reason is Jesus Christ. He loves us more than we can possibly imagine each of us. He is not concerned with whether we produce the perfect result. He is overjoyed simply in that we are trying to be the best people we can be.
We are at the end of this very strange school year. Normally this would be the graduating season, but big commencement ceremonies will probably not take place. Still, the young people preparing to move on to high school, or to college or to start their careers are full of enthusiasm. The basic attitude of most of our children, Teens and young adults is a mixture or happiness, excitement, and unlimited potential. It is all infectious. We see them and know that the world will progress as long as the young keep their enthusiasm for life. They give us hope. We cannot look at our young, from little children on up, and give up on life. Life is beautiful. Just look at these beautiful people about to take life by its horns. They know that they their dreams will come at the price of hard work, and they are ready for it.
But their enthusiasm for life will drain and our bright lights will become dark unless the young and unless we all, keep our focus on the reason for our hope, Jesus Christ.
How can we do this? With all the distractions in life, how do we keep our Christian focus? We do this by dedicating ourselves to truth. That is what the Gospel reading tells us.
Usually when we think about truth, we consider it as simply not telling a lie. Well, that is not sufficient. Truth is more than the opposite of saying something that is false. Truth is a way of life. Living the truth is not just avoiding telling lies, living the truth is avoiding living a lie. Living the truth gives us the ability to live an authentic life. Here is what I mean by all this. When we focus in on ourselves, we are living a lie. When we make self-gratification the goal of our lives, we are living a lie, the lie that we can make ourselves happy. When we focus on sacrificial love, we are living a genuine, true life. When we commit ourselves to the sacrificial love of the Lord, we are living the profound Truth that happiness comes from Him alone.
Today's readings speak about joy. There is the joy that new Christians in Samaria had after Philip baptized them. There is the joy that St. Peter tells us is the reason for our hope. There is the joy that Jesus says comes from the Love of the Father.
We Christians are truly eternal optimists. We may be dying of cancer, we may be in difficult family situations, strained relationships, financially hurting, what have you, but no matter what the situation, we know that if we are true to Christ, He will always be the source of our joy.
Our lives may be messy at times, but as long as we are trying our best, God does not hear a cacophony. He hears Seventy-six trombones in the Big Parade.