This Sunday’s Music: XX Sunday of Ordinary Time

While today’s readings may not be immediately easy to unpack — especially the Gospel —, there is a constant theme running throughout: when we find ourselves in times of trouble (or literally a pit according to the Scripture passages), we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the joy that comes from His saving power.

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In today’s Psalm, we hear: “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psalms 40:3). We looooooove to praise Him here at SFDS… especially with this old-school song of the South. We sing together:

He is my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield.
He’s the wheel in the middle of a wheel.
I know He’ll never, never, never let me down.
He’s just a jewel that I have found.

He is the “rock”, upon which He “set my feet” (Psalms 40:2). In Him we rejoice, singing His praises!


We already know a few of Rory Cooney’s “hits” here at SFDS: Change Our Hearts, Jerusalem, My Destiny and the rowdy klezmer-influenced Exodus reading from the Easter Vigil. Today, we will hear one of his most beautiful settings of the Psalms in Psalm 40. “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me” (Psalms 40:13). We find ourselves, like Jeremiah in our First Reading, in a pit of hopelessness, but if we call upon the LORD, He will come to our aid. “But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinketh upon me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God” (Psalms 40:17).


In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul urges us to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). The fact is that the LORD suffered, died, was buried and rose again, and there is a “sweet, beautiful, soul-saving joy … in [our] soul” that we receive in our belief in this tenet of our faith. You may remember this highly popular Kirk Franklin tune rendered by Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack, the best-selling gospel album of all time. Well, we will not be singing her Christmas-laced lyrics but the original (and more powerful) testament of trust in God. This classic of the gospel repertoire will surely stir up that joy in our souls as we sing it this Sunday for the first time at SFDS.


We have a particular love for the musical genius of Richard Smallwood here at SFDS, and today we sing a song that he penned with the famed Gaithers: Center of My Joy. St. Paul, at the beginning of his Letter to the Hebrews, writes: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). When we focus our lives on Jesus, when Jesus is at the centre of our being, there comes a joy that overwhelms us, empowering us to "run with patience the race” and to see the beautiful things there are in life.


From The Mass of St. John Bosco, this hymn, Revive the World With Me, was written as the hymn for the Offertory, a song of offering one’s very self to the LORD, but it is just as applicable in the Offertory “slot” as it is after we receive the Eucharist or when we are ready to be sent off to the world. Jesus’ fiery rhetoric in today’s Gospel reminds us that the Truth that He embodies and preaches can be divisive, pitting even family member against family member, but we all are bound together in a Christ-filled love that overcomes the possibility of division. In today’s First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah is doomed to death by being placed in a pit with no food to eat but is ultimately saved. Why was he placed there, though? Jeremiah was sent by God on a mission to preach imminent destruction to the Jews who had fallen back into idolatrous ways. The cold world did not want to heed his words and amend its way but, instead, sought to remain apart from God and to kill His servant. Jeremiah was on a mission to revive the world with the same flames, by which Jesus wishes in the Gospel that it had already been set ablaze. As we sing today, let us give all of our being unto the LORD that we may be instruments of His work in this often callous and self-absorbed world, setting it on fire with the gospel message of peace and reviving it with our spirit of love.


We last heard this Milton Brunson hit on Pentecost Sunday, and today, we are set ablaze by that same apostolic fire. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus proclaim that He is "come to send fire on the earth”, wishing it were “already kindled” (Luke 12:49). We have received a Baptism that ordains us missionaries, ushering in the Kingdom with our lives modeled after the example of our Master and Teacher, Jesus Christ. In the same Pentecost spirit of a few months ago, let us go out singing loudly and proudly that in our joy, our zeal we “got nothin’ but the Holy Ghost”!