Crazy Words of Joy

Get out the Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce because tonight is “Thanksgiving.” A day of gratitude. Our opening song rang out, (to set the musical and spiritual tone for our Mass) “Your hands, O Lord, in days of old, Were strong to heal and save; They triumphed over pain and death, Fought darkness and the grave. To you they went, the blind, the mute, The palsied, and the lame, The leper set apart and shun, The sick and those in shame.”

Namaan was healed. Elisha refuses a reward, as though a price tag can be placed on healing. The Gospel offers us nine healed, but … there’s that darn one guy, who’s from the wrong side of town, who ought to just go home but instead returns to the healer, Jesus Christ. He is thankful. Perhaps he just knelt in front of Jesus for a moment before leaving. He couldn’t find the right words to express equality with his healing experience. A giddy feeling may have overtaken him. In his no-right-words-come-out-of-his-mouth, he’s no longer thinking but only feeling joy, an indescribable joy. Made-up words like, “In-A-Gadda_Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly…”Chika Boom,” Guy Mitchell, “La La La-La-La-La-La-La-La – Means I Love You,” The Delfonics. Saying nothing about something and proudly singing away. And, to take this a step farther, (remember “step”), he’s walking back home and then easily jumps into the air and clicks his sandals. That’s joy.

How many run-on words we use when talking to God – about searching and possessing happiness, contentment, exhilaration … how about stupidly singing…”If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me,” Jimmy Buffett…”How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life,” Fred Astaire, Jane Powell…ridiculous, yet sincere. Don’t think about God, feel God’s healing.

It’s a beautiful fall day, temperature in the mid-60’s, light breeze, light jacket, lightheaded, sun beaming, clouds hovering low, and the words soon to be sung at the offertory are offered up to God, “Lord, let your Spirit meet us here to mend the body, mind, and soul, to disentangle peace from pain, and make your broken people whole.” What else can an offertory of thanksgiving say.

Or, perhaps the joy of singing, “Splish, Splash, I Was Taking A Bath,” Bobbie Darin…”Chim Chim Cher-ee,” Dick Van Dyke “Supercalifragilisticexplialidocious,” Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, “Heebie Jeebies,” Louis Armstrong, Crew Cuts, ”Sh-Boom.”

Music lifts us from where we are to anywhere. Spiritual music lifts (and raises) us up to keep us grounded. (hear that again?) Our gathering for Mass is sandwiched between hopeful melodies or lyrics that soften a Saturday’s harden heart, doubtful spirit, or you’re only here not to commit a mortal sin. Or, how about how great this Saturday is and I want God to know about, that argument last week was settled, I made peace with a past I thought I could never forget or forgive, “I’m in remission,” “I can deal with the aches and pain of aging, but I’m still here.” All honored and celebrated in this sacred place. But then that brings about some of our scatterbrain foolishness….

Conway Twitty wanting to sing, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly,” or Roy Clark strumming away with “Thank God for Greyhound (She’s Gone).”

Last time I checked, Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”

Seriously, a phrase I’m using more often is, “No matter what life throws at us or what we throw back at life.” We’re that healed leper. We’re that wounded person, finding a non-earthly but heavenly peace. We are all sinful people in need of God’s forgiveness, and this gathered Body of Christ is here to support and encourage us. When I walked down the aisle, we all sang, “Gave speech, and strength, and sight; And youth renewed and health restored, Claimed you, the Lord of light: And so, O Lord, be near to bless, Almighty now as then, In ev’ry street, in ev’ry home, In ev’ry troubled friend.” Beautiful and inspiring.

In the movie, “Scrooge,” after the third ghost leaves, Alistair Sim (the one and only true Scrooge) becomes childlike (Scriptural!), his giddiness and joy, as he runs around in his nightshirt not knowing what to do with himself and this newly found peace. Whether it’s been his or our second or third or even our fifteenth chance at a joyful life. It lives within us and is here for our renewal each and every Sunday. The closing credits roll as a soft snow falls, and he carries the now healed Tiny Tim hurriedly down the street, joining his family for a banquet of friendship, faith, goodness, and joy.

A feeling we can experience, even during doubtful, troubling times. It doesn’t emanate from us. That peaceful feeling, “like the dewfall,” comes from God and at the end of life, returns again to God.

Can we foolishly sing, in made-up words, of this great faith of rejoicing in thanksgiving to God? Can we join our voices with Phil Collins, The Beatles, and Steam? “Sussudio,” ”Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” “Na Na Hay, Hey Goodbye,” and that pointedly immortal, groundbreaking hit song about the meaning of life, “Hot Diggity (dog biggity boom),” Perry Como.

Then, there’s that silly, nonsensical “Symphony No. 9” in D minor by a minor composer, loudly ringing out for us, something about joy. I can’t tell you, but I can sing it to you when I feel it. I dare you to faithfully define it and then sing it for us. I want to hear it.

Let me know when supper’s served tonight. I can bring the pumpkin pie.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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