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We Are Free

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin & Martyr

First Reading: Revelation 14:14-19

I, John, looked and there was a white cloud,
and sitting on the cloud one who looked like a son of man,
with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
Another angel came out of the temple,
crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud,
“Use your sickle and reap the harvest,
for the time to reap has come,
because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.”
So the one who was sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth,
and the earth was harvested.

Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven
who also had a sharp sickle.
Then another angel came from the altar, who was in charge of the fire,
and cried out in a loud voice
to the one who had the sharp sickle,
“Use your sharp sickle and cut the clusters from the earth’s vines,
for its grapes are ripe.”
So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage.
He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96:10, 11-12, 13

R. (13b) The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

Gospel: Luke 21:5-11

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

NAB

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Today is the feast day of Saint Cecilia. She is the patron saint of music, largely because it’s said that during her wedding—a wedding which she never wanted and into which she had to be forced—she sang to God in her heart.

I like this image of a young woman singing to God and herself, even if no one around her can hear or understand her music. It highlights one way of dealing with adversity: choose to do the thing that brings you joy and glorifies God. If you do that, you will never be too far from your true end in God, even if circumstances around you are swirling out of your control.

All of this reminds me of the words of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who was a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps.  In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, he wrote that the last of the human freedoms is “the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Even if you can’t control your circumstances or surroundings, he said, you always have a choice in how you respond to them. Coming from a man who knew firsthand what it means to be stripped of all agency, these are humbling and challenging words.

The Gospel today mentions many happenings that hardly seem worthy of joyful song. Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple, wars and insurrections, famine and plague and earthquakes.  Some of these we see in our own world today, suffering and tragedy that we would never choose for ourselves or others. But once the initial shock and grief have passed, we are, in fact, free to choose our own attitudes toward these happenings, even though it may not seem that we are.

I’m not very good at this kind of mental adjustment, but I realize that it’s something worth doing. I also realize that it’s something that can be learned through practice. Life’s little annoyances, like the broken printer or the rush hour traffic that crawls along, are good places to start.

Because, in the end, we are more free than we realize. It takes courage to believe that, and more courage to act on it. But we have a helpful guide in this singing saint and in so many other brave people. They show us that we can respond to life’s blows with songs of compassion for others, and songs of thanks for the God who, even in our darkest moments, never goes away.

What is one area in your life in which things are not proceeding as you would wish? Challenge yourself to find a way to adjust your attitude.

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five SensesRandom MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos.  You can find out more about her here

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