5 Strings, 5 Audiences, 5 Techniques
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel John 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said. Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
May the God of peace make you perfectly Holy, and may you entire spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a certain tension that we must live under in order to achieve this “Perfect Holiness,” much like the tension that is placed on a string of a guitar. As a matter of fact, I would say the human person is made up of five strings, like a guitar. Our passage speaks of three: spirit, soul and body. But I would say that the five strings are: your spirit, your emotions, your psyche or physiological life, your intellectual life and your physical life.
Now each of those strings have to be properly tense. We know that on a guitar if the string is too tense the pitch will be too high; if the string is too lax than you will get no sound from it whatsoever. It is not just that each individual’s string has to have the some kind of tension; but it is also that all five strings be tense in relation to the each other. That means that in the case of our interior life, my spiritual life involves a healthy physical life which in turn involves a healthy emotional. All of these must be kept in balance.
There is a challenge in maintaining our interior self even St Francis called his body his donkey. But when we consider this burden that we carry in our life we realize it is a burden that leads to holiness. As St. Paul says, "May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body." (Thessalonians 5:23)
Now each of us are an instrument of the Lord. Each of us needs to play, not only in relation to the five strings of our interior life, but our “instrument” needs to be match to every other “instrument” in the family or "band.” That means that the family has as many instruments as members are inside the family. In my family there are seven of us. Those seven instruments inside a household can either be cacophonic or they can be harmonious. They can be annoying or they can be beautiful. That means that not only am I keeping myself balanced interiorly but I am also balancing myself in relation to others.
Just as there are five strings there are also five audiences. The first audience that we play for is God. This is essentially important. In order for musical instrument to be matched to another musical instrument they both must be on the same pitch. Pitch does not rely on an instrument itself. Pitch is something bigger than the instrument. Pitch is what brings all instruments into harmony. The Pitch of human relationships is the person Jesus Christ. When we match our life to that of Christ in His commandments then we are each tuning ourselves equally to His life. As such each of us, in relation to Jesus, now share in the harmony with one another. The first audience is God.
The second audience is the family, beginning with spouses. Spouses inside a household must match their pitch to God also then share in the harmony with one another. When you take the two spouses and join them in marriage, like joining two banjos, they then become a single 10 string banjo. That ten string banjo means that both persons, interiorly harmonious, and are able to match themselves to one another.
Spouses, pitching themselves to Christ, then become the third audience for their children. Children learn from parents how to take care of their own five strings. Children learn from parents how to tune their guitar, their musical instrument, to that of God; as well as how to tune to one another. Then the family becomes this great band that can play beautiful music: the music of life, a life well lived, a life lived in abundance, a life lived in joy.
There is a fourth audience for which we play, and that is our friendships. As spouses are tuned to one another, as children are tuned to one another, and all of those tuned to God, so too are friendships make a difference in our spiritual life. The harmony of life comes to us whenever we make friendships who are like ourselves. For those who are young, those who are teenagers, there is a healthy caution that you have to have with who you associate with. There are certain people who have not tuned their life to Christ, and they can throw your lives out of tune. That is the same thing for adults. Often times as adults think that they are above influence from bad movies, or bad music, or bad company, or bad business practices, as if they can associate with whomever they wish. That is simply a lie. The people you associate with are the people who effect the tuning of your life. It will affect your marriage, it will affect your parenthood, it will affect you relationship with God. So we need to make sure that our friendships are in this great harmony that God has given us.
The final people that we need to tune our life to are our neighbors. Not just simply the people living in a house next to us, but those people we are called to serve. Our neighbor is the person “next to us,” called a ‘proximo.’ They are the person next to us. Whenever we are “next to” somebody, that is the somebody that I am called to care about. I am called to match the harmony of Jesus Christ in my life to theirs and invite them into this great music of Christianity. Maybe even by simply serving their needs. Maybe it is by preaching the Gospel. Maybe it’s by inviting them into a prayerful life. But it is incredibly important for us to know in this season of giving this Advent that our proximo, those people who are near us, deserve to hear this great music of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So our five strings are met with these five audiences. But we recognize too that musical instruments have a certain technique whenever you play them. For example, you can play a guitar for an exciting song, or for a romantic song, or for a tragic song, or for a sit and chill kind of song. Each way in which you play that instrument is a different technique. I say that whenever we look at the audiences of our life there are five techniques that help us play this great music.
The first technique of being in relationship with one another is praying with one another. Spouses praying with spouses, children praying with parents, friends praying with friends and each of us reaching out and praying with those who are near to us. Our lives are “in tune” when they are matched to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Prayer tunes our life to the one who makes all of us equal, who keeps all of us on the same page of music. So we pray together: the first technique of entering into relationships.
The second technique is playing with one another, entering into the joviality of life. Playing is doing things just for the sake of the other person. Not because it has an outcome, but because the person him or herself is worthy of joy and interaction.
The third technique is working with one another this is where people get together and they have a common goal to achieve an object that they are all able to work toward. Families are able to be strengthened by the type of work they do with one another. A family that works together is able to understand the hierarchy of authority, the distribution of labor and everybody is able to discover their talents in different ways. My house was filled with work projects. We played together, we prayed together, we worked together and in that I knew that I had certain roles that my brothers did not have. My mom had a certain type of direction that my dad would do in different way. And through that we were able to see the breakdown of authority and the giftedness that we all had by working together.
Playing, praying, working: the fourth technique is eating together (3:30). Whether this is inside the family or if you’re a single adult, it’s eating with other people and not always eating by yourself. We have to caution ourselves against this fast food society that we are in. We eat on the go. We eat in our car. We eat in five minutes. Yet the art of eating is really entering into genuine conversations with those persons who are around us.
I think that there is a sort of travesty that is in the United States of restaurants are more concerned with turning people out than giving them the space to be able to sit for a long time and talk. As a matter of fact, if you’ve finished your food, it’s not too long before a server is cleaning the trays and giving you your bill to get you on out. Where as in Europe they’ve kept the custom that once you have a table you have it for literally hours. The reason why American restaurants are able to do that is because we ourselves have lost the culture of conversation. We go to restaurants and they have stupid televisions blaring so loudly that, even if you were wanting to have a conversation, you can’t hear one another. One person is looking over another person’s shoulder always wondering what the next thing is on the screen. And we are not even focused on one another we are loosing ourselves inside our text messages. We are losing ourselves inside our emails that have no business at the table. And even if we weren’t in a restaurant we are doing the same thing inside our homes. We are eating so quickly that it’s like a dog shoveling food in its mouth and then runs off to its corner. We have to get back the art of eating so that we can have the art of communication in our families. It’s lingering in one another’s presence because the other one is worth spending time with.
The fifth technique of entering into the music of relationships is cherishing one another. If a father does not tell his daughter that she is beautiful and lovely somebody else is telling her that. If a mother is not telling her son that he is strong and worthy someone else is telling him that. If the messages of cherishing are not coming from the people who truly close to us then we will yearn for it from a place that it has no business coming form. If husbands are not telling their wives how much they love them, and if wives are not showing their husbands their love for them through word or through action, then there is a miscommunication taking place inside the house. Friends need to cherish friends and tell them why they’re friends. What is it about them that makes them what to be around each other? In doing that we are building up one another in love. If we are not verbally and actively sharing with one another how much we cherish them then people will search for rit in all the wrong places.
You see we are great instruments each one of us individually we have five stings inside us that needs to be tense. That tension then allows us to enter into those audiences so that were able to then inter into relationships through the techniques that allow us to be truly Christian with one another. All of us being modeled on the person Jesus Christ. This is why St. Paul tells us, "may the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless for the coming of our lord Jesus Christ." We are followers of Jesus Christ may our entire lives be tuned to Him so that we can live in the harmony of the Father, the Son and the holy spirt.