Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Where Are You From? (2018-12-25, Christmas)

25 December 2018  Christmas -  Mass During Night
Isaiah 9:1-6  • Psalm 96 • Titus 2:11-14 • +Luke 2:1-14  •

Title:  Where are you from?

[__01__]       “Where … Where are you from?  Where are you from?”
            To answer this question, Father Joe Petrillo – our beloved pastor of Lourdes until 2013 – might have told this story. “Where are you from?” When he was about 23 years old, and in the 1970’s, and visiting in late summer a Catholic school where he would teach, he was in the parking lot of the school one day. He was new but recognized by someone as new and this person knew only his name, his last name and told Father Joe  … “oh, you are the new Italian teacher.”
            He did not mean you are teaching the Italian-language and idiom. He meant Father Joe was new  from Italy and of Italian descent. Imagine, he could mean and say all that and ANCESTRY.COM hadn’t even been invented yet!  That’s where you are from. Father Joe acknowledged proudly his Italian ancestry …but would not have answered this way.  He would have said, “I am an American.” That’s where he was from.
[__02__]       Where is Jesus from ?
            Well, Jesus is of of Nazareth, with Mary of Nazareth, Joseph of Nazareth.
            Nevertheless, Joseph & Mary recognize as every father and mother recognizes, that their child belongs not only to them, he is not just of their home, of their lives, but is meant to be of our lives. They have Jesus, in order to give him away to us.
            Where is Jesus from?  He is also of you and your home. Your town.
            Father Ronald Knox wrote that Joseph and Mary come to understand that that their child – Jesus - belongs not to them but to the whole human race.  He came to gave his life as a ransom for many. And, he came to live and be among us.
[__03__]      Recently, I was recognized …  This person knew where I was from. Nevertheless, he asked, just to be sure.
            Last Tuesday, I was at Seton Hall University, at the chapel. I was one of the few people in the chapel and sitting on a bench, on a pew.It was a little dark and hard to see faces.  Someone approached and started to speak. I heard but could not see …
            “Is that you?” “Jim, Jim Ferry is that you?”
            He knew where I was from, because we had been classmates.
He asked if I remembered him. Yes, Rich, I remember you – we were together every day for 3 years. Imagine if you might a high school, college, school classmate. The image/foto is still on my hard drive (mind). It’s in the archive of permanent long-term memory.
            Where are we from? Where we are from helps us to remember our common origin – as God’s children. We are from the same place, children of the same Heavenly Father.
[__04__]      Knowing we are from, tracing our origins, however, can also bring us closer together.
            It does not have to divide us.
            I’d like to give an example.
[__05__]      In 2005, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times newspaper was walking through downtown Los Angeles and noticed a musician living and playing Beethoven –beautifully – a violin on the street corner, a violin that had only 2 of 4 strings. It was apparent that this musician’s concert hall was the street corner or, frequently, the 2nd Street Tunnel. Imagine a violinist in the Lincoln Tunnel. That’s where this musician was.
            The reporter and musician develop a friendship which becomes a book and later a movie called “The Soloist”.  Jamie Foxx plays the part of the real-life musician, Nathaniel, Nathaniel Ayers.
            This is how it starts, on the street corner. After the reporter hears this Beethoven classical music being played:
          “That’s pretty good,” the reporter says ..and that he would like to come back later and to listen again to more Beethoven.
          Nathaniel says, “Oh, all right, he says APPRECIATIVELY  but with fear. [He is afraid] Nathaniel looks like a man who has learned to trust no one.”
          Back at the office, the reporter make a note on a yellow legal pad – the title for a future newspaper column “Violin Man”.
          It’s got potential. Who knows where it will go?
[__06__]      The violin man is Nathaniel and the reporter is named Steve Lopez. Both are from the same place. What I mean is that they both thrive and flourish on the street, out in the street.  But, for different reasons.
            Steve Lopez is an old-school reporter who is known to discover this subjects and stories by pounding the so-called pavement.  He is a model of journalism and reporting that he notes – with some sadness – seems to be fading away with so much technology and electronic media.
            In any case, Steve Lopez is of the street.
            But, Nathaniel – the musician he discovers – is also of the street, but for a different reason.
            Nathaniel suffers from serious paranoia, schizophrenia.  He is about 55 years old.   He seems to be just one of many homeless people in downtown Los Angeles. But, is that where is really from?
            It turns out  … 35 years earlier – in the 1970’s – Nathaniel had been a promising classical string bass student at Juilliard – the Juilliard School of Music, NYC – ambitious, charming, one of the very few African-American students at Juilliard in the 1970’s until Nathaniel gradually lost the ability to function and suffered a nervous mental breakdown.
            When he is re-discovered on the street and re-appreciated for his gifts, Nathaniel is alone, suspicious of everyone, and deeply troubled, but glimmers of that brilliance are still there. There is a glimmer of brilliance n all of us.
[__07__]      Through their friendship, Nathaniel starts to accept some of the psychological help and counseling he needs, and starts to accept violins and cellos that are sent – from all over the country and world - to the Los Angeles Times building.
            The story testifies to our belief that every one of us is from the same place. Also, the reporter recognizes – paradoxically – that this musician who has absolutely nothing is an important friend and part of his family.
            To this day, they spend usually – every Thanksgiving and Christmas together. They were certainly together last Christmas.
[__08__]       Where is Nathaniel from? Well, Nathaniel is from Juilliard and he plays the strings. And, he was there in the 1970’s. So, of course, who does he know personally? He knows Yo Yo Ma, one of the famous classical musicians in the world and the most famous living cellist.
            When Yo Yo Ma visits L.A. for a concert, he learns about the connection and promptly and gladly agrees to meet Nathaniel is in his dressing room     Going to the dressing room, Nathaniel REMEMBERED, he was in awe and said, “I remember your hands from [when we were together at] Juilliard. You’re an amazing player, Mr. Ma.”
            “First of all, I’m not Mr. Ma, I’m Yo-Yo.  Did you like it, I know you like Beethoven. I want to tell you what it means to meet you, to meet somebody who really, really loves music. We are brothers.”    
            The connection between Nathaniel and Yo Yo Ma is not just in their hands – but in their hearts. That’s where they are from.
            Our connections in love of God and neighbor is not in what we do but in who we are as children of God the Father.
 [__09_]      Where are you from? We are from the same place and need the same salvation and mercy and peacefulness. It is a question that comes from the dark, an invitation to be present to Jesus each day, as he asks, “is that you?” [_fin_]  

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