A warm welcome to the St. Louis Life Runners who are worshiping with us this morning. The goal of the Life Runners is to engage in a public pro-life witness through running at various events around town. I plan on putting on my Life Runner jersey to try and win the Rosary Run later this fall. I’ve been promised that everyone is going to encouraged to gamble on whether I can defeat some Dominican priest. All for a good cause.
We also welcome our Gloria In Excelsis choir campers who are in the choir loft singing their hearts out for the glory of God.
It’s only fair that our guests get to hear a vintage homiletic tactic from me, which is to quote an obscure passage from Shakespeare and then go on and on about it while your eyes glaze over.
Near the beginning of Twelfth Night – Yes I was serious about that – Near the beginning of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare writes that, “Music is the food of love.”
Music is the food of love. In the 16th century, when that play was written, the Puritans were eliminating Church music for various reasons that defy explanation. But when that happens, so much beauty is lost!
As Christians, we are encouraged not only to sing at Mass, but to actually sing the Mass, because God deserves beauty. St. Augustine says, “Cantare Amantis est/Singing is for lovers.” When we want to express love, or happiness, or sorrow, it’s natural that we sing. You don’t just want to tell your beloved of your undying love, you want to sing her a song, to pour out your heart. We sing the Mass because we love Jesus.
These children have been working hard all week to learn how to sing the Mass today. No doubt, you’re amazed at the beauty and skill with which they are singing, but more importantly, their music is not a performance but is an offering of devotion to God.
We have a diverse selection of music for today, but what you might most notice is the very difficult plainchant. It isn’t like the hymns that we sing, not at all. Hymns are rhythmic whereas chant is, and I think this is the technical term, “sing-songy.” What has always intrigued me, though, is that whenever the Catholic Church is portrayed in a movie, the soundtrack always switches to chant. This is because, instinctually, the two together fit together.
The Missa de Angelis that we’re singing this morning is challenging. As we try to follow along, we may, in fact, sound like a bunch of drunken sailors. That’s okay. It’s also okay to appreciate the fact that it is truly different. It is uniquely Catholic and it leads us into a sacred space and time. To step out of the banality of the everyday world and into something transcendent is sublime, and is a stark reminder that we don’t voluntarily give up our Sunday mornings to take part in anything ordinary. God is here. It does not speak to us in common language, and music seems to drift to us directly from the throne room of God. It demands something from us. It demands our full, conscious, and active participation.
I have to admit that at first I was hesitant, because the Gloria In Excelsis camp was a big undertaking. But here is what I have learned in my life – we can do hard things.
Here’s a story for you Life Runners.
Back in June, we had our annual missionary appeal and I had a rare Sunday off. So, because I’m an odd guy, I decided it would be fun on my day off to get up early and do a combination running/bicycling race. We ran 4 miles, then we transitioned as fast as possible and rode our bikes 20 miles. The first thing I said when the race was over as I tumbled off my bike dripping with sweat, cramps rolling down legs, and bleary eyes was that I was never doing that again. I’m sure I’ll try it again next year, because, again, I’m a bit off. The point is, in bicycling culture, they call those type of races Time Trials, and a Time Trial is called the Race of Truth. This is because a race like that reveals a lot about yourself. As you’re digging deep and pouring everything you have into this endeavor, you desperately want to quit, to simply make it stop. Enduring to the finish reveals what sort of person you are and how you bear up under adversity.
I’m not going to lie, As a priest I get anxious about money and taking care of the Church and the budget, I worry about if I’ve offended anyone, if my homily was terrible, if the advice I gave in confession is about to ruin someone’s life because they’re doing what I said and it was just so wrong…God calls us all at various times in our lives to tasks that it’s very easy to want to give up on. It is so easy to quit, to quit on that friendship, that relationship, that dream.
God isn’t like that. He is eternally positive. He gives everything he has for our redemption, simply on the possibility that we might one day, maybe accept his mercy and be made saints. Why? Because he loves us. He knows what is inside of us.
What is God calling you to do? What destiny is in store for you? Will you rise to the challenge?
Our Gospel reading is kind of amazing. Think about it. Our Lord gets his guys together and he says, okay, you’re my guys, now get out there and exorcise demons. What? And then, instead of telling them how to accomplish this incredibly scary task, he tells them what not to pack. Don’t take anything, basically. And you know what, they go out and they do it! They drive out demons, they anoint people, they preach the Gospel.
Don’t underestimate the power of God’s vision for your life. Don’t neglect the opportunity he offers through his grace to be transformed if you just hang in there and seize his gifts. Don’t be lied to by Satan that you are less than you are, that you are anything less than a hero on a mission to heaven. Don’t ignore the opportunities he gives you to draw closer to him, to make a positive impact in someone else’s life, to do something beautiful. Don’t give up.
There is a way that you can act in the world that will make a permanent change for the better, because God is with you. When you want to give up, remind yourself how much God believes in you, that he sends you out into the world confident that you will surpass every expectation. The question that each of us can ask ourselves every day is, what is God going to do in my life today?
God loves us. Our faith isn’t a business arrangement or a quid pro quo, it is a relationship. Through the sacraments we are brought into the life of God himself, we are united with him by the grace of Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes that we are chosen, even before the foundation of the world, for this majestic vocation, and we are being made perfect for this purpose. This, I think, is a love worth singing about.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.