In honor of the beginning of Summer, the St. Anthony choir performed a concert of some of our favorite music last Saturday. From John Rutters’ “For the Beauty of the Earth” to the Gospel Alleluia, the church rang with the sound of praise. Afterwards, we gathered in the yard for the first cookout of summer, sharing our favorite picnic foods in a spirit of joy and fellowship.
Even though this celebration wasn’t liturgical, it shared the spirit of St. Anthony liturgy–joyous, Spirit-filled, warm and welcoming. As Scripture says, where two or three are gathered, Christ is present. All of the individuals who participate in liturgy here–whether in a ministry of service (choir, lector, usher, etc.) or as a member of the assembly–truly understand what the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II meant when it says that Christ is present in the priest, in the Word, in the Eucharistic elements and in the assembly.
Luke’s gospel speaks of the criticism that the followers of Jesus received for being drunken revelers. Clearly those first followers didn’t think that being in the presence of Jesus meant letting go of joy. Nor do we. Nor, apparently, does Pope Francis since he named his first apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” The word gospel means good news. Eucharist is giving thanks. If we believe in good news and giving thanks, surely our behavior should reflect that. Even standing in awe–which surely happens also at liturgy–doesn’t mean we have to be glum or sober. David danced in the presence of the Lord.
In our troubled world, which gives us plenty of opportunity for worry and sadness, we need to be reminded that God is here and that all will be well. Taking a few moments here and there to leave sorrow at the door and sing and clap and maybe even dance puts us squarely in the presence of God, in whom there is no more weeping or mourning. And so, we sing and eat and make merry to celebrate the arrival of summer. For God is in our midst.