Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
Many words in today’s readings inspired me to consider my work and my life here at SLU. Certainly, the First Reading from the Book of Micah spoke to me because of its calls for uniting people compassion and forgiveness, and these are of course hallmarks of every educational process and certainly the case in Jesuit pedagogy. The entire Book of Micah advocates just leadership, defends the rights of the poor, and promotes social justice. Its three sections all start with some kind of calling to hear or listen to the Word of God, and perhaps surprisingly, answering my own heart’s calling is what drew my attention most to the Responsorial Psalm.
I grew up a native New Yorker, just a short walk and fast subway ride away from midtown Manhattan. I try to fill every visit I make to my hometown with the kind of storytelling magic that I insist can only happen in live theater, and what better environment for that than New York? Over the Christmas 2011 holiday, I was fortunate enough to see a performance of the new revival of the musical Godspell, with melodies and lyrics that may be familiar to many (you probably know its song “Day By Day”). Today’s psalms were incorporated into one of those songs, “O Bless The Lord My Soul,” which (like the other songs in the musical) is woven into the fabric of the show’s parables. “O Bless The Lord My Soul” follows the teaching that after a man spent his life amassing material wealth, he dies before he could enjoy any of it. The song reinforces the message that our lives have greater purpose than our own worldly limits and hopes for forgiveness and redemption when we need it, and in the staged production, the character of Jesus responds to the song with a reminder that we must address today’s problems. Perhaps that is a musical lesson for us to work diligently as lifelong educators and students, and maintain healthy balances in our lives to experience all of our blessings.
Aside from narrating an adapted combination of parables and plots from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the musical also demonstrates how a diverse group of people can come together in a united community of love and caring. Act One of the musical ends with a retelling of today’s Gospel reading: the parable of the prodigal son. Reading this again today, and having recently seen the parable performed on stage in one of my favorite musicals reminded me of my own journey. For a period of time in my younger life, I experienced doubt and conflict with my own espoused values and the values of the Catholic Church that my education taught me. So I left the Church for a while and spent my own time studying other faith traditions and exploring my own sense of identity. Many years later, I was my own prodigal son: returning to the familiar home of my Church for the kind of clemency, protection, care, love, and understanding that today’s readings teach us. I do not believe I could now (or perhaps ever) actually claim to have “been found” as the son in Luke’s gospel is described. But I do know that as an educator, I have appreciated the privileges of searching for myself and finding a more learned homecoming place at a table of celebration again.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that my holiday theater schedule included Godspell. The Anglo Saxon word, “Godspell” (which gives us the modern English word, “gospel”) means “good word.” So in readings, in prayer, in syllabi, in management tasks, in reflection, and even in song and dance, I hope I will always be able to learn more good words. And I am grateful that the learning community of Saint Louis University advocates for my continued learning, even in these Lenten reflections, and maybe even as I play some Broadway showtunes in my office to contribute to the development of a campus community with love and compassion for all.
Thanks for reading this reflective intermission of sorts in your day – now it’s on to the next act…for all of us.