FROM A READING FOR AUG. 28, 2016: 22ND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness...and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them...' -- Hebrews 12:18-19


Most of us take movie background music for granted. Even old-timers have grown up with it, rarely reflecting on it as an artificial element. Yet "Jaws," for instance, certainly wouldn't have become the classic film it is without John Williams' suspense-filled soundtrack.

None of us have special music playing in the background as we live our lives. What we take for granted in movies, we omit from day-to-day existence. Such things just aren't there in real life.

Actually, that's not totally correct: Scripture is the background music for our faith lives. To those who read and study this special library, it's always there, giving significance to our following of the risen Jesus, running through our minds like a movie soundtrack.

Even before that first-century-CE Galilean carpenter began His itinerant preaching ministry, followers of God were familiar with such a soundtrack. About 500 years before Jesus' birth, the Torah -- Scripture's first five books -- had taken the form with which we're familiar today.

Added to soundtrack
Through the years, other books, like Sirach, were also added to the themes faithful Jews surfaced as they tried to give themselves over to God's will. As we hear in Sunday's first reading (Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29), humility, wisdom and almsgiving were always playing in the back of the minds of true Israelites. They gave deeper meaning to the life of all Jews.

Music isn't actually playing as we live our lives. It only plays when we want it to play. Most of the time, we don't reflect on the important things, people or situations we daily experience until long after we encounter them.

Luke's Jesus seems to take that for granted (Luke 14:1,7-14). Though the risen Jesus' soundtrack doesn't automatically become part of our personal soundtrack when we awake each morning, He wants us to do what's necessary to have it kick in.

According to Jesus, there's significance in everything we do, even to where we sit during a formal dinner. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet," He insists, "do not recline at table in the place of honor."

Somehow, we're to be so honest that we appreciate not only our own importance, but also the importance of others. That's biblical humility. "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Keep music going
Jesus even expects us to concretize that humble theme music when we throw a party: "Do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you."

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews certainly turns up the volume (Heb 12:18-19,22-24a), putting our simple Christian actions on a level of symbolism anyone would enjoy hearing. In the ordinary events of our lives, we can actually "touch" the God among us, come in contact with "the spirits of the just made perfect" and even encounter the risen Jesus.

Perhaps the music which best keeps us on the road the risen Jesus expects us to take is in the last line of our Gospel passage: "You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." This creates the soundtrack for all Christian lives: We constantly look beyond. If we don't, then, as Paul said in I Corinthians, we're the most ridiculous of all people. We're going through life without hearing the music which gives meaning to that life.