This article from The New York Times is pretty crazy as it states that nearly half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Rico is a part of America. I thought that was something that everyone knew if we go back to West Side Story way back in 1957 where in America we hear “Nobody knows in America / Puerto Rico’s in America!”, perhaps with the lyrics change in the film version has prevented this from being as well known. This was fifty years ago and it is a still shame that so many people think it is a foreign nation, over on The Hill they are reporting that in an interview Hilary Clinton said that she isn’t sure Trump knows about the Atlantic islands that are members of the US. Sure he has made plans to visit the islands next Tuesday but that is not enough to solve any problems he has berated the island for defaulting on loans and their current debt struggle yet with the devastation that took place with Hurricane Maria it seems like this debt is just going to grow over the next decade or how ever long it takes to rebuild the island. Vox has a nice overview on all of this as well.
If Puerto Rico were a state would there have been a quicker and better response? I haven’t a clue but I know that there have been five different referendums on statehood with several of the most recent ones leaning toward statehood however the United Nations would like Puerto Rico to be it’s own nation. If you have the ability to donate your money or time to help out with the cleanup and recovery in Puerto Rico that would be the best thing that you can do right now. Sure, Texas and Florida got a telethon with all those celebrities but I hope that we can do more for Puerto Rico however that many be accomplished.
As we turn towards the Book of Sirach, a book not included in the Hebrew Scriptures as it was originally written in Hebrew but then it was translated to Greek. Even though it is not officially in the Hebrew Biblical Canon it has been used by the Jewish people and there are many citations in the Talmud and other rabbinic literature. We hear in the reading that our God is a God of justice and he doesn’t play favorites. God hears the cry of all who are in distress and the prayers of those that serve God willingly reach the heavens. The prayers of the lowly do not rest until it reaches its goal. Sirach is basically telling us that prayer is important in our lives, as leading a prayerful life with all the distractions of life can be difficult and it is real simple to forget about God.
We once again hear from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul is still in jail and Paul is feel that his time is drawing to a close. More recent scholars have said that this letter perhaps was written by a follower of Paul after Paul was beheaded, but he was in prison in Rome before he died so there is some doubt as to the writer although in Paul’s name it was most likely a follower who composed the letter. In the letter he states that he had competed well and finished the race and kept the faith. Paul was put on trial and no one showed up to defend him and he felt alone but he found strength in prayer.
Turing to the Gospel we once again have a parable from Luke. Two people went to Temple to pray, one a Pharisee the other a tax collector. The Pharisee when up to the front and prayed it seems like it could only be out loud (humble bragging), “God thank you for making me so much better than the rest of society, especially this tax collector.” The Pharisee goes on to the things that make him special he fasts twice a week and tithes. The tax collector stood off a distance and couldn’t ever raise his eyes to heaven, beating his breast he quietly prayer “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” The simplicity of the Jesus prayer is all it takes. Jesus tells us that it is the tax collector who has his sins forgiven rather than the Pharisee. Once again we hear about prayer, it can resonate in heaven until it is heard, it can be our strength and courage and it can exault us. I am reminded of the Simple Song from Bernstein’s Mass, “Sing God a simple song/ Lauda laude/ make it up as you go along/ Lauda laude/ sing like you like to sing/ God loves all simple things/ for God is the simplest of all.” The song is about prayer, God doesn’t care how we pray but he wants us to pray to sing Praise to God at all time. I hope that we can all make some time this week to spend some time with God in prayer. This is something that seems difficult in the world today as we are too preoccupied with other things in our lives to even think about God.
In remembrance of Leonard Bernstein‘s 95th Birthday. I don’t know what it is but Bernstein’s Angus Dei and Gloria tibi have been stuck in my head lately. Leonard Bernstein’s composition Mass was commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Now I first discovered this work through Stephen Schwartz of Godspell, Pippin and Wicked fame as he provided additional lyrics to the piece.
Mass is a theater piece based on the Tridentine Mass and diverges from that. The cast needed is huge as there is need for three choirs in it along with the Celebrant and his Acolytes, along with a Marching Band, rock band on top of a regular pit orchestra. I like it since it deals with the crisis of faith that everyone faces in live From the simpleness of Simple Song, where everything makes sense to the utter cacophony of Agnus Dei and The Fraction: Things get Broken. It is a rather interesting composition that mixes together different types of music seamlessly.
I really don’t understand why major musicians today are not willing to take a chance on composing a new Mass. If they do get around to doing a Mass it is a Requiem, and although those are nice it would be nice to see/hear more pieces like this today, especially in the popular music scene it would be really cool to see what some of they had to say through a Mass. However this seems very unlikely.
Mass by Bernstein is one of my favorite modern compositions, as it still seems relevant today even after 40 years. I think we all need to realize that simplicity in our lives bring us closer to God. I had heard the musicals by Leonard Bernstein but it was only after i heard Mass that I got interested in the other compositions (Chichester Psalms, the Symphonies). All in all great music that needs to be heard and I guess seen.