Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am not a Beatles fan. No, I am not just throwing it out there as a random thought, I am not a fan of the Beatles or their music. It’s not that I hate them, or their music, in fact I am familiar with most everything that they recorded, which is the result of growing up in the 70’ and 80’s, and being exposed to their music by radio and other people who were fans. But, by the measuring stick of the 20’s, you will not find any of their songs on my Apple Tunes or Spotify, and if one of their songs comes up on Pandora, it will probably get skipped.
With that being said, this morning I woke up with the song Eleanor Rigby going through my head, which is not what I want in there in our current situation, nor is it the reflection of the reality we need to be in. For those who don’t remember the song, the title character is introduced to us as a spinster, who lives alone, and we are asked why she bothers with appearances. The same is said of a priest who continues to go through the preparations for Mass, which is considered senseless by Paul McCartney, the author of the song. In the end, Eleanor Rigby is buried without family or friends around, and Fr. McKenzie walks away, having buried her, but without actually accomplishing anything. What a depressing song.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, several celebrities decided to collaborate with an acapella version of Imagine, by John Lennon. Without going into great detail, I believe the killing of John Lennon was a tragedy; not because I was a fan of his music (I’m not), but because a father and husband was senselessly gunned down, and we do not know what future songs and messages may have been written. With that being said, I hate the song Imagine. For many of the same reasons I don’t like Eleanor Rigby, Imagine is one of those songs which remove hope, remove purpose, remove the dignity of human existence.
Yes, I realize there are millions of Beatles fans screaming for my skull right now, and how dare I attack the blah, blah, blah….. Here’s the deal, Eleanor Rigby, even though she is a fictious character, represents a human being, who by her very existence is evidence of God’s love, and her picking up the rice leftover from a wedding, her wearing a face she keeps by the door, expresses a desire for relationship. McCartney asks, “Who is it for?” The answer is simple, it is for whoever will enter into a human relationship with Eleanor, it is an expression of her desire to interact with other human beings, it is a reflection of her desire to be in relationship with God.
Fr. McKenzie, writing a homily, which will not be heard by other people, does not negate the act of love that is emanating from his heart. That this priest is still making an effort for the people, who have been called by God to be a community of worship, even if they do not respond to that call, is an act of faith, an act of hope, and an act of love. In many ways, I have to remind myself that there is a purpose to writing my bulletin columns and doing other things that may seem fruitless in the immediate circumstances. But we act out of love, and in that we find a purpose within itself.
To imagine that there is not heaven, and by extension no God, is a horrifying prospect, because it means that we are created out of chaos, that ultimately there is no purpose to anything we do. To live for the day, as the removal of God suggests, opens up the way for selfishness and hedonism, as there is no reason for individuals to respect the fundamental dignity of other people or creation. This is not to say that religion, which Lennon suggests abandoning, is solely used as a moral code, although it is the morality found in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, as well as certain ethical practices from Eastern religions, which formed the moral code that the progressives of the 1960’s based their Utopian fantasies on. Unfortunately, the continued evolution of “Progressivism” has given rise to an abandonment of meaning and goals, of concern for others, unless it is of immediate interest, and of reaching out to something beyond oneself. This is why supposed progressive politicians are so prone to corruption, as it is their immediate needs that matter most.
But there is still hope. Those of us who recognize the existence of God, who live for something outside of ourselves, beyond ourselves, and though we live in the world, know that there are things this world cannot offer. Within our hearts, we recognize the beauty that has been given to creation is a reflection of the goodness God holds out to us. Perhaps one of my favorite explanations of this faith comes from Pope Emeritus Benedict, who wrote “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. ” (Deus Caritas Est) We come to know Christ from an encounter with each other, as being made in the image and likeness of God, sharers in the nature of humanity which Christ took on, from which we receive our fundamental human dignity. We come to know Christ from the encounter with His Body, the Church, which makes Him known through His Word, and through the Sacramental encounter with the Risen Christ.
We become One, not through an emptying of meaning and rejection of who we are, but through the recognition of how full life is, through the sharing of that life, and coming to know the Author of Life itself.