A mysterious thing happened today. Absolutely wrecked by a hacking case of bronchitis, I sang through an entire funeral Mass for a gathered group of family and friends. I didn’t want my illness to draw attention from what the bereaved were there to do, and so before I began, I just asked God to sing through me, to make up for what I lacked. He did. I can attest to the fact that I never would have been able to do that on my own. As it was, I had to dart out during the homily mid-coughing fit, and I know some of my notes only just barely squeaked out, but it seems none of the songs were encumbered by the weight of this obstacle. They hit their marks. I know this because of the number of people who approached me afterwards and said genuinely how really lovely it was. Now, all I could have hoped for this morning was to not completely ruin the day for the family; lovely was not even on my list of goals. But God did it anyway. He shouldered the load for me. He always does, somehow.
When we give our smallest bit as we walk through life, God travels with us and makes up the rest, and He makes it bigger and more lovely than we can imagine. While I believe that’s true, I have yet to allow the reality of our partnership to totally sink into my bones and heart, but we are working on it. I had some reinforcements today in the homily of a really wonderful priest, and later, over a very greasy burger.
In today’s homily, the visiting priest spoke of Churchill, who said that all of life can be summed up in three books. He said The Iliad teaches us that life is suffering. The Odyssey shows us that life is a journey. And the Book of Job from the Old Testament shows us that life is a mystery. Job endured tremendous suffering and loss, and those around him believed it was his fault. When God finally makes clear to the small group that Job is, indeed, His friend, and that the cause of his suffering is not really their concern, they are mystified. Why do we suffer? Are we alone? Where are we going? What is this journey really all about? Where is God in this? As our visiting priest said, there are two essential truths. One, that your life has meaning. Two, that you will live forever. The rest is a mystery.
On the journey of life, we suffer, we are misunderstood, and we travel on, and the key to the mystery of how we do that has everything to do with hope. It’s a theme I heard revisited over a burger later in the day when a song from Styx came on at Five Guys. Hearing it made me drop my perfect burger (but only for a minute).
On board, I’m the captain, so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try, Oh Lord, I’ll try… to carry on
A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said
They said, come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Picking up and carrying on is not easy, especially when we are not sure exactly where we’re going, but it is good to know we are not traveling alone. How it all works is a mystery we will not solve until it is revealed to us on that other shore, and that is a heavy burden for me at times. But then I open my mouth to sing and somehow the words and the tune come out in a much more lovely way than I could have created them. And then something about our partnership makes more sense to me…it all has to do with who is steering the boat. God knows, it’s never been easy for me to hand over the wheel, but beautiful things can happen when I do. Knowing that, I have to be okay with what I do not understand. For today, I am.