5 Jul 2015
“‘Is not this the carpenter …?’” (Mark 6:3) In the name …
This past week the Organ Historical Society came through here as part of their 60th national convention. They visited Holy Name because of the instrument that guides us each and every Sunday in our worship. It is the last remaining William Jackson organ anywhere in the world and it dates back to 1868. On Tuesday I was able to meet and talk to people from all over the country who were in little South Deerfield, in part, to hear our organ. And they loved it. Many thanked me as they were leaving for our hospitality and for sharing such an instrument with them. That organ has been a part of Holy Name for as long as there has been a Holy Name. It’s only natural … but because we hear that pipe organ at every Mass as opposed to hearing it for the very first time like they did at the convention, can’t we start to take something exceptional for granted?
Let me expand that circle. The organizers of the convention invited me to tell those in attendance about our parish and our church, and for the two recitals there were five Peter Pan buses full of people that came through here. It was like Easter, twice, on Tuesday, and man can those organ enthusiasts sing. Their tradition is to include one hymn in the recital and they filled this place with their voices. I guarantee you could hear them out on Thayer Street, maybe even Sugarloaf. What a beautiful sound that was. And remember they’re organists not vocalists, but they sang nonetheless. It was joyous. But back to what I was saying, they asked me to tell them about our church. Afterwards, so many mentioned how intrigued and impressed they were by us. And this happens so often. When people don’t know about National Catholics and hear about us for the first time, they are amazed that there is a church such as ours. And my question a second time is whether or not our familiarity with this church of ours has made us so accustomed to it that we are not as grateful as we should be?
And think about today’s Gospel account of Jesus returning to Nazareth. I deeply appreciate the honesty of Mark’s telling of the story. This is the only passage in the entire New Testament that refers to Jesus as a carpenter. The other Gospels say “carpenter’s son” probably because they were embarrassed by the bluntness of Mark’s statement. Jesus was a carpenter, a man who worked with his hands, not a philosopher or a rabbi. Then Mark lists the brothers and sisters of Jesus, some of them by name. This is a lot more common in the Bible than many would imagine. Yet we hesitate to talk about this because somehow we feel that such an ordinary family background makes Jesus seem less special and holy. So the Jesus known to the people of Nazareth was seen as an ordinary man, a carpenter, from an ordinary family, they still knew His brothers and sisters who lived there. And even Jesus Himself is a bit more reserved than we have grown used to. His words are, “‘Prophets are not without honor except in their hometown …’” Prophet is a dignified position, no doubt, but we recognize Jesus today as so much more than a prophet. We see Him as Saviour and Son of God. Everything in Mark’s account is emphasizing the ordinary and how hard, actually it proved almost impossible, for the people of Nazareth to accept Jesus for who He really was. For a third time let me ask if familiarity has prevented people from seeing the extraordinary?
And I promise, now for the fourth and last time, I wonder if the same sort of thing happens when it comes to our nation. This weekend we are celebrating Independence Day. On August 27th you will be able to hear an interview we conducted at the FCAT studio a couple of weeks ago with Fr. Sen. Banas, the last remaining clergyman of our church who learned under Bp. Hodur. I asked him about the importance of this nation to our first generation of National Catholics because Bp. Hodur purposefully waited until the Fourth of July to bless the cornerstone of our first church in Scranton, and inside that church they chose to dedicate one of the stained-glass windows to President Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. Fr. Sen. Banas responded that those first immigrant parishioners deeply understood the political freedom of this land since they had never known it before, and they associated it with the religious and spiritual freedom of this church of ours. Our country’s ideals became part of the inspiration of our church, and our nation’s structure became the model for our church structure. Those poor, uneducated immigrants of more than a hundred years ago understood and appreciated the gift that is the United States and I wonder with all of the wealth and education we have gained since then if we have forgotten what a blessing this nation is.
This doesn’t mean that we have to approve of everything the United States does. It doesn’t imply “America love it or leave it.” But what a blessing it is to be able to disagree with the powers that be, and to still be safe, and to still be Americans. Back in 1956 at the height of the Cold War with the officially atheist Soviet Union, President Eisenhower signed a measure changing the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum,” from the many one, to “In God We Trust.” The older and long-lived motto taught us to try and get along even with all of our differences. There was supposed to be respect for diversity and change, and also a willingness to compromise and find common ground. I see a lot more division in our country now, and I hope it has nothing to do with the idea of “In God We Trust.” I say this because faith can do powerful and wonderful things, but abused it can make our opinions absolute and turn our differences into divisions. We have a gift in our nation and in our church of toleration, of the freedom to think and to even disagree, and I hope and pray that we haven’t grown so accustomed to the blessings of tolerance, compromise and cooperation that we take them for granted and let them disappear. So let us today celebrate the freedom of our nation and the freedom it shared with this church of ours, and let us never take either of them for granted. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo