Now I See

I think a lot of people will agree with what I’m about to say: As I grow older, darkness is not my friend.

Eight or nine years ago, my mother-in-law – who was a whippersnapper in her early 90s at the time, walked down her dark hallway to bed one night, ran into the ironing board she had forgotten was there, fell, and broke her femur bone. The good news is that she recovered and is getting ready to celebrate her 100th birthday in July. The bad news is, well, everything I said above, up to the good news part.

Darkness – and an awareness of what happened to Bill’s mom – is why Bill and I each keep a flashlight within easy reach by our bed so that we can click it on in the event we need to go to the bathroom. And we’re old, so that need arises often.

It’s rare that I fully understand the so-called theme of the scripture readings at the weekend Mass, but even I – as dense as a London fog on – yes – a dark night – understood that the theme this past weekend was light.

The Old Testament reading was the story of how God let his people know that David was his chosen King – the light of the Jewish people. The New Testament reading had the same theme. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul told the folks in Ephesus, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord……..Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

But the reading that really hit home was the gospel from St. John in which he tells the story of Christ bringing sight to the man blind since birth. As Jesus spat on the ground to make mud with his saliva, he told the blind man, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” The man, who had been in the dark his whole life, suddenly could see everything, thanks to Jesus’ miracle. Jesus gave the man light because he IS light.

It made me think about all of the times that I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep because I begin worrying. Sometimes I worry about something specific – a health issue with one of our children or a problem one of our kids or grandkids might be having at work or school. Sometimes it’s more a general sense of doom. And I know you will all agree with me that THINGS LOOK WORSE AT NIGHT. I have literally spent hours worrying about something in the darkness, and when the sun rises, I think, “Really? I was so worried about that? It’s no big thing, really.”

Court and Kaiya enjoy the warmth and light of a fire at a family gathering.

St. John goes on to tell us that, upon the man suddenly being able to see, the Jews were beside themselves. They told the man that only God can perform miracles, and asked him how this mere mortal could make him see. Over and over again, the man told them he didn’t have a clue how it happened, but all he knew was that he had been blind from birth and now he could see. Maybe this mere mortal shouldn’t have been able to bring him sight, but he had. Because (say it with him) I was blind and now I see. Don’t get it. Can’t explain it. But there you have it. I couldn’t see. The dude rubbed mud in my eye and now I can see.

Just like the Jews, I always want answers to my questions. Why does Bill have Parkinson’s? Why does someone drive a car onto a bridge and kill people? Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s easy to blame things on God, just like the disciples at the beginning of the gospel when they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Sin wasn’t the reason for the blindness, Jesus explained to them. Good would come from the blindness. And that reminds me that no matter how dark things get, Jesus will always bring light to me if I believe and pray. Because Paul reminds us that Christ promised that he would give us light. So in the same way that our problems seem to diminish in the daylight, Jesus, who is light, will bring us strength when we accept that he is our light.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

How Great Thou Art

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art….

Though Bill is now a faithful Catholic, he wasn’t always. In fact, he was brought up to be a devout Baptist, a member of Morgan Park Baptist Church on the south side of Chicago. It was in that church that he spent a considerable amount of time in the youth choir (where he sang a solo – The Old Rugged Cross) and involved in other church activities. When he was 12 or so, in the manner of Baptists and other evangelical Christian churches, he was baptized by being fully immersed in water.

Bill, in fact, was not Catholic when we married almost 24 years ago. It didn’t bother me, though I am aware that it is nice when a couple can attend church together. And it was only a year or so later that Bill – on his own – announced that he wanted to convert to the Catholic faith. He had apparently been interested in Catholicism for a number of years. I couldn’t have been happier.

I think Bill would say he has come to love the Catholic Church and its practices. What has taken him a bit of time to get used to, however, are the hymns. Let’s face it, there is nothing like good old Baptist hymns to praise God in song.

Different Catholic churches have different philosophies about music. The church with which we are affiliated in Denver is old school. The congregation is largely older people who don’t want to hear guitars at Mass. The church we attend in Mesa has a much livelier musical philosophy, singing many songs with which I am unfamiliar but love. At the end of the day, I have to admit that I enjoy the Mesa church’s music more than our Denver church. I like joyful praise, I guess.

There are two songs often sung in our Denver church, however, that I can count on Bill singing loud and clear – Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. I love both of those hymns as well, and I am particularly happy when the music board says we will be singing one of those songs. Why? Because I LOVE to hear Bill sing both of those hymns. He has a beautiful baritone voice and perfect pitch. I have never had a beautiful voice, and my pitch – which used to be acceptable if not great – is now nonexistent. I crack. I warble. I squeak.

Bill is a member of the Round-up Riders of the Rockies. RRR is an organization of men united in their love for horses and nature. Each year the group rides horses and camps somewhere up in the Rocky Mountains for a week. Among other activities, the RRR’s have a men’s choir that performs for the Sunday church service that is held wherever they are camped on that particular day. When Bill used to participate regularly, he was a member of the choir, which sang both Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. Bill always said that he loved singing How Great Thou Art out in the wilderness because the words are so appropriate and it made him feel closer to God.

He told me that again after Mass on Sunday after we sang that hymn. It made me think about a hymn that my mother particularly loved when they lived in the mountains of Colorado. Here are some of the lyrics…

Sing to the Mountains, by Bob Dufford

Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea.
Raise your voices, lift your hearts.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let all the earth rejoice.

This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us be glad and rejoice.
Death has lost and all is life.
Sing of the glory of God.

Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea.
Raise your voices, lift your hearts.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let all the earth rejoice.

It’s wonderful to praise God in song!

This post linked to the GRAND Social