In my earlier days as an assistant, I was stationed with a man who had some problems, especially with me. We lived in the same house and worked at the same parish and ministered to the same people, and he could be cordial and at times generous. But his problems would surface at the most unusual times and periodically he would get on my case. He would verbally "assault" me (and I use that word generously). He would tell me to my face that I was worthless as a priest, that I was a waste of time and energy, that I was nothing and a nobody. He would harangue me like that for great lengths of time, and the next Sunday mention to the people what a good priest I was. It drove me nuts ... and it undermined my self confidence. The one saving element to these experiences was my relationship to the Lord, the affirmation that I received from the people of the parish, and the support of my priest friends and other close friends. To live a life without affirmation is difficult. To live a life being told that you are worthless and that you do not matter can be devastating. To live life without supportive relationships is to not live at all.
I was reminded of this in the responsorial psalm of this past Monday which reminded the people of Israel that they had forgotten God, their life giver, their rock. They had declared that they did not need God - God was useless to them, non-existent. And God said that if they thought that they did not need God, that he was unnecessary, that he was non-existent ... then God would hide his face from these stiff necked people, with their vain idols, and show them to be a "no-people", and anger them with problems that could be resolved if they trusted God but without God would be overwhelming. Their identity rested in their relationship with him. Their meaning and purpose was founded in him.
The "no-god" attitude of our every increasing world view and culture threatens to leave us without an identity; and without that identity, to be without a purpose; and to be without a purpose, to be lost. We are headed to be that "no-people" that was spoken of - to be nobodies, worthless, forsaken, dead in the waters. Without the affirming love and power of God, we are nothing. With it, we share Glory!
NPM Convention Reflection
I mentioned what a joy it was to be among so many faith filled, like minded people. It was also a blessing to be in the presence of so many talented composers and musicians. They shared with us, show cased their new works, led us in prayer, and lifted our spirits. On Wednesday evening in the Allegheny Ballroom of the Westin we were blessed with three composers of liturgical music from different generations sharing their comtemporary works. Curtis Stephan and Steve Angrisano are current musicians and composers who were joined by veteran composer Dan Schutte for an hour concert. Dan has written "City of God" , "Beyond the Moon and Stars", and "Here I am, Lord". These three men were formed by the Church at different times of her history, yet they share a love of God and a common faith that flows into hearts. In their additional song at the finale, they did "Here I am, Lord". Dan Schutte asked us to sing it as he intended when he wrote the song. The verses would be sung by one person (these are the words of God - "I the Lord of sea and sky ... who will I send?") and the refrain would be sung by all ("Here I am, Lord; it is I, Lord ...). It was the most powerful experience of that song that I can remember.