Sermons

October 24: Sight & Insight (30 B)

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!” Mark 10:46-52

Jesus is on his journey to Jerusalem, and along the way, we have met several people in need. And today, we are only seven miles from Jerusalem, and in the town of Jericho, we hear the words of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, who calls out: “Jesus, have pity on me.”

In the New Testament, there are approximately 75 references to Jesus healing people. Most prominent in Mark’s gospel is the healing of the Bartimaeus, and with very few others, he has a unique distinction in that we know his name.

In Matthew’s gospel, we read: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eyes are sound, you will have light for your whole body.” (Matthew 6:22) In this understanding, sight has the capacity for both 20/20 vision and profound insight.

Welcome to our parents, grandparents, and students to this our Parents’ Weekend here at Santa Catalina.

Sight and insight, no doubt you see all around campus the images of Charlie Brown. His creator, Charles Schultz, once saw children playing in a schoolyard, and this insight turned into a newspaper comic strip with universal appeal. Centuries ago, another artist would exert unparalleled influence on Western art, once he said: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Of course, these are the remarks of Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence, Italy.

Sight, insight, and the gift of faith let’s explore this idea of seeing with Christ’s eyes.

Years ago, in Liverpool, England, a young teenager and aspiring musician was caught in grief over his mum’s death. While asleep, in a dream, she appeared to him, telling him to take courage and “let it be.”

So begins the origin story of how the famous song “Let it Be” came into the imagination of Paul McCartney. His soon-to-be-published book, “The Lyrics, 1956 to the Present,” opens the door to the inspiration behind 152 of his treasured songs. Interestingly, McCartney has declined to write an autobiography, instead, he offers his readers an insightful reading of his music and lyrics, and shows how they have defined his life over these many years.

Students may not recall the lyrics, but for your parents, grandparents, and me, we know these words by heart:

 When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And when the broken-hearted people in the world agree, there will be an answer; let it be. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah whisper words of wisdom, let it be!

So we whisper words of wisdom, and for the past few weeks, I’ve preached about the sources of wisdom. Here is an example of how we can be blind to understanding and profoundly deaf to one another’s deepest longings.

McCartney’s “Let it Be” was released in 1970, fifty years ago. I vividly recall that my seminary choir of thirty male voices wanted to sing Let It Be in a concert; provide a solo performance to our very best tenor.

From time to time, besides the traditional Church music, the seminary choir sang appropriate contemporary songs like Blowing in the Wind or Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and with success. So we wanted to try Let It Be.

To the choir members at the time, the religious element in the lyrics appeared to be that of Mary’s words to the Angel Gabriel “Let it be done according to thy Word.” The song might echo the Magnificat or the Hail Mary the most traditional of Catholic hymns and prayers. Or so we thought?

Enter our Choir Director and the formidable Dean of Students, Father Joe, a fusspot of a traditionalist dumbfounded over our singing this Beatles song. His strong reaction was a declaration of war and told the choir members that the lyrics had nothing to do with the Mother of God.

To his mind, the song’s lyrics about Mary had only one meaning about “Mother Mary” as in marijuana!

“Really,” we asked? Consequently, we were not permitted to perform the song, however popular it was. The battle over the song’s meaning had been on my mind until Paul McCartney cleared up this matter only three years ago.

This argument brings us to the present. I’m a big fan of James Cordon and the CBS Late Show.

With 62 million views on YouTube, the most-watched of all the Carpool Karaoke took place in Liverpool, England, where James Cordon, driving in his Range Rover, sang along with Sir Paul McCartney, himself.

The twenty-three-minute feature is pure magic. McCartney takes James for a guided tour down Penny Lane — he points out his parish church of Saint Barnabas where he was a choir boy, then goes to a pub where McCartney startled its patrons with his presence. They drop in at his childhood home, now a museum dedicated to the Beatles. We get to see the very place where the Fab Four’s songs were first composed and first practiced.

Inside the Range Rover, McCartney and Cordon sing up a storm. It’s here where McCartney reveals for the first time the origins of the song. Let It Be was about his mum, who had died when he was a very young lad. The inspiration for the song came to him in a dream, when she appeared to him, and how she let him know that her death and the troubles he suffered would pass, and he need not worry. That there will be an answer, just let it be!

James Cordon was teary-eyed and telling McCartney, “You got me emotional there, Paul!” And added: “That’s the most beautiful story I’ve ever heard.”

With such genuineness, I, too, was teary-eyed, and what a revelation! After so many, many years, its meaning for me has an even deeper resonance. The song was not about marijuana, and Mother Mary did not refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yes, both the choir and its director were wrong.  Instead, Mary was Paul McCartney’s mother’s first name, her name at Baptism.

This song and its inspiration, like all creative gifts, work in mysterious ways – they may contain wisdom, providing sight to the blind and insight into our lives, and, most of all, spiritual healing when grief weighs us down.  So, let us see one another with Christ’s eyes.

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!” We celebrate a God who hears our nighttime prayers and knows our hearts and dreams.

So, let us see with Christ’s eyes. He lights our way into loving relationships with mothers, fathers, children, husbands, and partners. It’s his sight that we celebrate today and he lights the way for our present studies here at Santa Catalina and our future path and, yes, even in our songs.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow; let it be!  

 Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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