This evening while driving across Kansas on the way to a cousin’s graduation in Hays, I took the opportunity to listen to one of my favourite works of sacred music, Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass. Performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Marsalis himself, and Le Chorale Chateau, conducted by Damian Sneed, the Abyssinian Mass is a thrillingly poignant work of sacred devotion to God.
One particular element of the Abyssinian Mass that stands out from most other Mass settings is the inclusion of a sermon, a lesson, taught by the minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. The message, and following hymn, is simple: everyone has a place in the House of God. Everyone.
I have not written much on my faith of late in part out of my own annoyance for the obnoxiously vocal religious right in my own country and elsewhere around the globe. Those who preach a gospel of hate and hellfire give religion a bad name. My faith is founded on the belief, as a Catholic, that the Divine is inherently good and loving; that all evil exists solely out of the gift of free will, and the subsequent misguided decisions made by a variety of actors over the ages.
Yet though a Catholic I find that I cannot help but accept, and encourage those practises and beliefs in other traditions which are also founded on this same positive outlook on the Divine, this same understanding that God is Love. As this Protestant minister said, and as the choir sang, “Everyone has a place in the House of God!” Yes, yes, yes!
So then, I must beg the question, if all of us have a place in the House of God, if we share even this sole beautiful inheritance, then why do we constantly seek to find those things which divide us? Why do we continue to argue that one group, one people is greater than another? Why do we constantly stab ourselves in the back with jealousy, deceit, fear, and overthinking when we could be so kind to each other?
I say we try it out, we try being nice to one another. It may be a small thing, it may even be mildly unrealistic, but you never know it might just work.