I’m going to start off with a couple of reflections; first from Bishop Barron and another from Msgr. James C. Vlaun. I do this because it is from their reflections on today’s Gospel that led to the thoughts I’ll share with you this morning.
First, Bishop Barron’s reflection:
Friends, in our Gospel, Jesus speaks, with incredible bluntness, about cutting off one’s hand and foot and plucking out one’s own eye. If these things are a block to your salvation, get rid of them, for it is better to enter life maimed than to enter Gehenna with all of your limbs and members.
The hand is the organ by which we reach out and grasp things. The soul is meant for union with God, but instead we have reached out to creatures, grasping at finite things with all of our energies.
The Lord also speaks of the foot. The foot is the organ by which we set ourselves on a definite path. We are meant to walk on the path which is Christ. Do we? Or have we set out down a hundred errant paths, leading to glory, honor, power, or pleasure?
We are designed to seek after and look for God. Have we spent much of our lives looking in all the wrong places, beguiled by the beauties and enticements of this world? And are we willing to pluck out our eye spiritually, to abandon many of the preoccupations that have given us pleasure?
Second, Msgr. Vlaun’s reflection.
Having read the Gospel and Bishop Barron’s thoughts, then listening to Msgr. Vlaun’s reflection, I began to think about how important my hands, my feet, my eyes and how “salt” are so important in my ministry as an organist/pianist for the Church. I love playing the organ, it is truly one of the most challenging things that I do. I started playing the piano in 4th grade, soon after my Uncle Bob gave the family a piano as a Christmas present (my brother Jeff still has that piano). It was a Cable piano, a blonde low back upright and everyone in the family at one point played it. After 3+ years of piano lessons with my teacher Richard Lee, he challenged me to start learning how to play the organ and it was in January of 1978 that I played my first Mass at St. Blaise parish. It was horrible (and that is from the nicest critique). I remember vividly that Mass and how all my classmates sat in the pews right by the organ so when I made a mistake, they could have a good laugh. I did not disappoint them. I wasn’t too keen on what each of the stops sounded like, so Mr. Lee set the stops for me before school was out on Friday and I just left them that way. After each hymn, I would turn the organ off because I was afraid that I would hit a note and just add to the misery that I was already putting the congregation through. What I didn’t understand at that time was that electric organs had tubes and until those tubes warmed up, the organ couldn’t produce any sounds. So as the petitions ended and it was time to start the offertory hymn, I flipped the organ on quickly and started playing, but no sound was coming from the organ. Having heard no sound, I figured I didn’t have the volume pedal pushed down far enough, so I started pushing on that to no prevail. Once I had the volume key pushed down all the way, I started adding stops figuring that was the problem. You can probably see where this is going. I had the volume on full and all the stops of the organ now being used and then the tubes started warming up and the organ started to put forth sound. And oh the sound it put forth. All of my classmates were covering their ears (while laughing profusely), the older generation were all grabbing to pull their hearing aids out and my Dad was found walking out of Church. But Mom, God love her, was telling everyone how great the hymn sounded. I am still amazed to this day that I was ever allowed to play for Church again. OK, enough of the story, how does that relate to today’s Gospel.
The Gospel speaks of four things, hands, feet, eyes and salt. If the first three are being used for strictly my benefit and not God’s, Jesus is telling me to simply get rid of them…It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire…It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna…Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. I need all of these particular body parts in order to play the organ or the piano and since I do this every week (as part of my vocation for the Church) it is imperative that I heed Christ’s message and not let my hands be used for violence or my feet to lead me down the wrong path or allow my eyes to cause me to sin by witnessing things that are wrong. I compare playing the Organ to the likes of flying a plane. There are numerous stops, keys, foot pedals, volume control pedals, crescendo pedals that require the coordination of my eyes, my hands and my feet for each note/song that I play. If I truly consider what I do as work for the Lord, then I must maintain that discipline throughout all aspects of my life.
So how does Salt figure in? In Msgr. Vlaun’s reflection, he speaks about how a pinch too much salt or not enough salt can effect the way your food tastes. If you add just the right amount, it can make that food “come alive”. I believe that same philosophy can be used for music at Mass. I am not up in the Choir loft to perform, to be the object of everyone’s attention – that would be adding too much salt to the music and I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose. On that same note, if I don’t play the right stops or play too slowly or play without understanding what the meaning/purpose of each song has, then I haven’t added enough salt and that song my not get across the message it was intended for. It is a fine line we walk as Music Ministers. We are there to add to the Mass and not be a distraction from it.
I hope I was able to get my point across. So how does this affect your life? How can you use your hands, feet, eyes to ensure your passage into God’s kingdom? How do you keep your salt from becoming insipid? “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”
Do something great for our Lord today – appreciate the gifts God has given you and offer them up to God in praise.
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.
He must increase; I must decrease.
Eternal Father, I offer thee the Precious Blood of Jesus, in satisfaction for my sins, and for the needs of Holy Church.