Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 30, 2019 by Monsignor Perez
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019
Monsignor began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary.
If you remember the last time I was here, I started a series of sermons on the Gifts of God. Now we’re all very used to hearing about the gifts of God that are the Supernatural Gifts. We always pray for the Supernatural Virtues, we thank God for them and things like that. But I found a nice little reprint of an old book — I didn’t plagiarize the sermon, but it gave me an inspiration to talk about the gifts that God gives us for which we may not have enough appreciation to Him. And these are the more natural gifts proper to our nature or just things that He gives us, and I wanted to mention a few words about those today. Also, my whole thrust is to have us appreciate the things God gives us, so one thing at a time. Sometimes we try to take the shot gun effect and blast everything at once and it doesn’t really work for us that way. We’ve got to take one thing at a time and exercise that until it becomes a habit and then move on to the next thing.
Today I’m talking about the gift of hearing. Once again, like sight that I talked about last time, hearing is a gift that we don’t fully appreciate or don’t even start to appreciate until we begin to lose our hearing or we see someone who is maybe born deaf and we have a sympathetic prayer for them and it starts us thinking about it, but otherwise we wouldn’t. Scientists now say we hear before birth so you can hear things while you’re still inside your mother, like Mozart that she’s playing for you. According to the modern recommendations, Mozart’s good anytime, so why not before you’re born, to start out on a good foot there. So today I want to talk about this gift of hearing.
I want to remind you as I reminded you with the gift of sight, that there’s not just one window of the soul. There are many windows of the soul. For those of you who didn’t hear what I said about sight, people often say, oh, yes, the eyes are the window of the soul. But they don’t understand what they’re saying. Like so many of the modern sayings, it has become removed from its’ true meaning and they make it to mean something else. A lot of people think, well you have such pretty eyes, I can look into your eyes and I can see your soul. Isn’t that wonderful? No, it’s not that kind of window. It’s called the window but it’s actually only a window of the soul because it is through sight (and through hearing now) that the soul sees out to the world. It’s the soul’s window out on the world.
Remember, the soul is the seat of our intellect. In fact, the soul is where everything that makes us us, is. That’s in the soul. Our personalities, our memories, everything – our intellect, our will are all in our souls. And so the soul then collects information about its’ environment through its’ various windows, sight being the first one, as I spoke about, hearing being the one I’m talking about today.
One thing I want to mention is the many uses of hearing, some of them very basic. We use hearing to learn about life and the world in general, to warn us of danger of course. That’s what our car horn is supposed to be for. In California we’re pretty good about that, if somebody’s about to step out in front of your car or change lanes without knowing you’re there we beep the horn. In New York they just get in the car, put their hand on the horn and just keep going until they get to their destination. It’s a slightly different philosophy, but it’s the same idea. Hearing can warn us of danger in that way. Hearing a rattlesnake for example tells us not to go over there.
Learning – learning about anything, learning in school, we use our hearing. But the highest use of hearing to learn would be mostly hearing things about God. Now things have a hierarchy of uses. Hearing things about God is a highly exalted use of hearing but there are so many others. You know, one thing that your soul enjoys is that it exalts with the holy things about God, but it enjoys many, many, other things that come to us through hearing. Let’s just take the sounds of nature. We are quite blessed to be where we are. Every day I go out and it’s like being in the aviary of the zoo. Just this morning there was a mocking bird pleading its’ song. There were the mourning doves cooing, there were the little tweety birds singing and sparrows and bird-like conversations. Beautiful, beautiful songs and the soul appreciates those. Why? Because of the beauty of them and then it makes us say thank you to God for that particular thing, for the gift of the songs of the birds.
Other things too; for example, good music. Now I have to emphasize good music because everybody will say it’s subjective. Well it is and it isn’t. The ancient Greeks came up, well before the time of Christ, with a philosophy of what constitutes beauty. What are the elements of beauty? Do you apply it to music as well as to things you can see with your eyes? Remember, this is input to your soul. There are kinds of music that are good for your soul, as other sounds that are good for your soul. And I would start with, of course, you know religious kind of singing is good, but it’s not something that is really always pleasing to listen to. I know I sound like a heretic when I say it, but Gregorian Chant for example. Gregorian Chant is a beautiful kind of music, one of the most for singing, because what are you doing? You are singing a beautiful prayer when you sing Gregorian Chant, right? And some of the Gregorian Chants are nice to listen to. You can be forgiven if you don’t go home, put up your feet and put on a disc of Gregorian Chant because most of it is more to be prayed by those singing it than to be listened to. To listen can kind of go on and on and on for a while and you go okay, let’s have some Mozart please. Now Mozart and Bach and others like that, they fit very well the conditions for beauty and their beautiful works of music enter your soul and they please your soul. Later on, Western music [not Cowboy, y’all] started to fall apart and it reached its’ height in the 16th, 17th Century and then began really to disintegrate. So I can’t say that the introduction of other forms of music were its’ destruction, because when you get as far as the modernist composers (not Modernists the same way that Francis is but in the composer sense) you get to Prokofiev and Scriabin, it’s junk. It’s like the sound track for a nervous breakdown. These things do not please your soul, but the symmetry and harmony of the classical music, the older classical music really touches your soul.
I was looking at one of the restaurant places, where they had a TV on and they had somebody who was talking about (it was Black History Month) the contribution of the continental African music to Western music. Well, as I said, Western music was only ailing because of Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff and such people but the African tones were its death knell. The introduction of the jungle rhythms into Western music were the poison that finished it off and is continuing to kill the rest of us. We’re talking about the rhythms they came up with like rap and rock and that type of music. These are positively disturbing for your souls. Now take note: Protestants got this wrong too – that’s a subheading of “Protestants got it all wrong anyway”. But one dictum goes like this: Well we listen to Christian rock so we can listen to our Christian rock because it’s Christian, it’s rejoice in the Lord and and and. Okay, my friends, it’s not the words that necessarily make a song bad, it’s the rhythm, you see. And a lot of these come from the interior of Africa where many cultures are still very primitive. When my ancestors were playing on Stradivari violins and writing symphonies, their ancestors were beating on animal skulls with sticks. But it hasn’t changed is the problem. It hasn’t risen above what it was. In Africa it’s still that and an end in itself. It’s all about tribal sensualism which is the rhythm of rap and things. These are sensualized rhythms that enter into your soul by hearing. So you should not say, well this is good rock, this is soft rock. I mean, soft rock? Or as a geologist would say, no soft rock, but not that one. I would think more like tufa or something like that which is a soft rock. But it’s still these rhythms insinuating themselves into your soul.
One further thing though that I would say on the positive side of hearing that you should all do. These things that please your soul by way of language – take opera for example. Of course, that’s an acquired taste too, but you notice there are not many English operas. Why? Because English is a lousy language for opera. I mean it’s good for a musical but it’s not good for an opera. So which language do they write them in? Mostly Italian, sometimes German because the sounds of Italian are just very pleasing sounds.
You know, you don’t have Chinese opera either. I’m not just bashing my own language you see. I think probably an Asian opera – you can’t have Rigoletto or something in Chinese. It would not please the soul. Every language has its’ own sounds. To that end, whatever language you speak I’m sure you have poetry. Ours is English, right? And it does your soul good to read poetry to yourself out loud, to memorize poetry, even if it’s secular poetry because even a pleasing bit of secular poetry makes you appreciate the gifts of God more. A lot of times when you read to yourself it’s not the same, right? I mean to read in your head, not out loud. When I was writing this, I was thinking, so somebody who is born deaf, never hearing anything, what do they do when they read? When I read anything, a book or something, it’s like the words echo in my head. Maybe I’m nuts. I never asked anybody about this – Father, you’re weird, that doesn’t happen with us!! But I hear the words in my head when I’m reading. But somebody who has never heard a word I wonder how that works.
In any case, for those of us who can hear, we should occasionally take a well-written bit of poetry and just read it for the very pleasure that it gives to our souls. I have an example here of one of my favorites and it’s an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Now you say, oh my goodness! An epic poem, he’s going to read us an epic poem. Epic means, goes on forever – I’m not going to read you the whole epic poem, just the first two stanzas because just good poetry does a lot for your soul. So this is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline. I don’t know who has read Evangeline before but if you haven’t I’m sure it’s online, you can go to Amazon Prime and get it tomorrow or download it right now instantly right here in church on your i-Phone and start reading along with me – is more like the modern trend. But here are the opening lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Just listen to the sounds. A good poet is like an artist with the sounds and he just makes a combination of images:
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
You see, that’s just beautiful to speak and to listen to.
So my dear faithful, by way of appreciating this gift of hearing, I want you to notice when you are here, you are hearing the words of the Mass – nothing more beautiful on God’s green earth. When you go out you will hear many things today. I want you to be conscious and to consciously not just thank God for the source of these things – O God, thank you for this bird, thank you for Father, thank you – whatever, but thank God for the gift of the hearing itself. Thank God for giving us that great overlooked gift that we have and that we need, to be much more thankful for.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.