The Watchman’s Song

 

First published June 5th, 2013… with updates today. 

 

IF I may recall briefly here a powerful experience about ten years ago when I felt driven to go to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament…

I had been sitting at the piano in my home singing “Sanctus” (from my album Here You Are).

Suddenly, this inexplicable hunger rose up within me to visit Jesus in the Tabernacle. I hopped in the car, and a few minutes later, I was pouring my heart and soul out before Him in a beautiful Ukrainian Church in the town I was living in at the time. It was there, in the Lord’s presence, where I heard an interior calling to respond to John Paul II’s call to the youth to become “watchmen” at the dawn of the new millennium.

Dear young people, it is up to you to be the watchmen of the morning who announce the coming of the sun who is the Risen Christ! —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World, XVII World Youth Day, n. 3; (cf. Is 21:11-12)

 One of the Scriptures the Lord led me to at that time was Ezekiel Chapter 33:

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: When I bring the sword against a land… and the watchman sees the sword coming against the land, he should blow the trumpet to warn the people… I have appointed you as a watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. (Ezekiel 33:1-7)

Such a task is not one a person would choose. It comes with a great cost: ridicule, segregation, indifference, the loss of friends, family, and even reputation. On the other hand, the Lord has made it easy in these times. For I have only had to repeat the words of the popes who have enunciated with perfect clarity both the hope and the trials awaiting this generation. Indeed, it was Benedict himself who said that the rapid departure from any kind of moral norms in our times has now put the “very future of the world at risk.” [1]cf. On the Eve And yet, he also prayed for a “new Pentecost” and called the youth to be “prophets of a new age” of love, peace, and dignity.

But that Scripture of Ezekiel does not end there. The Lord goes on to describe what becomes of the watchman:

My people come to you, gathering as a crowd and sitting in front of you to hear your words, but they will not act on them. Love songs are on their lips, but in their hearts they pursue dishonest gain. For them you are only a singer of love songs, with a pleasant voice and a clever touch. They listen to your words, but they do not obey them… (Ezekiel 33:31-32)

On the day I wrote my “report” to the Holy Father (see Dear Holy Father… He is Coming!), a summary of what I have “seen” and “see” coming in the years ahead, my new album of “love songs”, Vulnerable, was being set for production. I confess, it seemed to me to be more than coincidence, for it wasn’t planned that way. These just happened to be the songs sitting there that I felt the Lord wanted recorded.

And I also ask myself, has anyone really heard the cries and warnings? Yes, a few to be certain. The conversion stories I have read as a fruit of this ministry have brought me to tears at times. And yet, how many in the Church have heard the warnings, have heeded the message of Mercy and hope that awaits all who embrace Jesus? As the world and nature itself free-falls into chaos, it almost seems as though people cannot hear. The competition for their senses and time is almost indomitable. Indeed, on that day the Lord called me before the Blessed Sacrament, one of the Scriptures I read was from Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am”, I said; “send me!” And he replied: “Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but do not understand! Look intently, but do not perceive! Make the heart of this people sluggish, dull their ears and close their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart understand, and they turn and be healed.”

“How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied: “Until the cities are desolate, without inhabitants, Houses, without people, and the land is a desolate waste. Until the Lord sends the people far away, and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.” (Isaiah 6:8-12)

It is as if the Lord sends His messengers to fail, to become a “sign of contradiction” as it were. When one thinks of the prophets in the Old Testament, of John the Baptist, of St. Paul and of Our Lord Himself, it indeed seems as though the springtime of the Church is always effected in that seed: the blood of the martyrs.

If the word has not converted, it will be blood that converts. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, from poem “Stanislaw”

I have tried to be faithful, tried always to write what I felt the Lord was saying—not what I wanted to say. I recall the first five years of this writing apostolate, carried out in sheer terror that somehow I would lead souls astray. Thanks be to God for my spiritual directors over the years who have been faithful instruments of the Lord’s tender shepherding. Yet, as I examine my own conscience, I could very well repeat the words of St. Gregory the Great:.

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Note that a man whom the Lords sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight. How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching. I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. —St. Gregory the Great, homily, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 1365-66

For my part, I ask forgiveness from the Body of Christ for any way that I have failed in either word or deed to convey the joyful hope and gift that is the message of salvation. I also know that some have categorized my writings as “doom and gloom.” Yes, I understand why they would say that, hence the reason I have always deferred to the stark warnings of the popes (see Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting? and Words and Warnings). I do not apologize for blowing the trumpet of warning, sober words to wake up souls. For that too is love in the distressing disguise of truth. It is also an inescapable duty:

You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me… [but] if you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. (Ez 33:7-9)

But it is not all warning, as a brief perusal of my writings here will attest. So too with the popes. Despite a controversial pontificate, Pope Francis continues to point us to the very essence of our doctrines, catechesis, encyclicals, dogmas, councils and canons… and that is to a profound and personal relationship with Jesus. The Holy Father is emphasizing to the Church once again the simplicity, authenticity, poverty, and humility that must become the character of the People of God. He is trying to show the world once again the true face of Jesus through a mission of love and mercy. He is teaching the Church that her essence is to become a people of praise, hope, and joy. 

Discipleship must begin with a living experience of God and his love. It is not something static, but a continuous movement towards Christ; it is not simply the fidelity to making a doctrine explicit, but rather the experience of the Lord’s living, kindly and active presence, an ongoing formation by listening to his word… Remain steadfast and free in Christ, in such a way that you manifest him in everything you do; take up the path of Jesus with all your strength, know him, allow yourselves to be called and taught by him, and proclaim him with great joy… Let us pray through the intercession of Our Mother… that she may accompany us on our path of discipleship, so that, giving our lives to Christ, we may simply be missionaries who bring the light and joy of the Gospel to all people. —POPE FRANCIS, Homily, Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin, Columbia, Sept. 9th, 2017; ewtnnews.com

And yet, he said, “The Church must be ‘shaken’ by the Holy Spirit in order to let go of comforts and attachments.” [2]Homily, Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin, Columbia; ewtnnews.com Yes, this is precisely what Our Mother has been saying all over the world: a Great Shaking is needed to awaken a slumbering Church and a world that is dead in its sins.

It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011, General Audience

Thus, the loving discipline of the Father must come… and it will and is, like a Great Storm. That which Heaven has delayed and delayed, now seems to be on the verge of fulfilment (cf. And So it Comes):

…you are entering into the decisive times, times for which I have been preparing you for many years. How many will be swept away by the terrible hurricane which has already hurled itself upon humanity. This is the time of the great trial; this is my time, O children consecrated to my Immaculate Heart. —Our Lady to Fr. Stefano Gobbi, Feb. 2nd, 1994; with Imprimatur Bishop Donald Montrose

This is the time of the Great Spiritual Battle and you cannot run away. My Jesus needs you. Those who give their lives in defense of the truth will receive a great reward from the Lord… After all the pain, a New Time of Peace will come for men and women of faith. Message of Our Lady Queen of Peace to Pedro Regis Planaltina, April 22nd; 25th, 2017

No, this is not the time to build cement bunkers, but to cement our lives in the refuge of the Sacred Heart. To put our whole trust in Jesus, to obey, without compromise, all His commandments; [3]cf. Be Faithful to love the Holy Trinity with all one’s heart, soul, and strength. And to do it all in and with Our Lady. In this Way, which is the Truth, we find that Life that brings light to the world.

Dear children, apostles of my love, it is up to you to spread the love of my Son to all those who have not come to know it; you, the little lights of the world, whom I am teaching with motherly love to shine clearly with full brilliance. Prayer will help you, because prayer saves you, prayer saves the world…  My children, be ready. This time is a turning point. That is why I am calling you anew to faith and hope. I am showing you the way by which you need to go, and those are the words of the Gospel. —Our Lady of Medjugorje to Mirjana, April 2, 2017; June 2nd, 2017

I cannot help but feel that my album Vulnerable is somewhat of a “bookend” to the past 10 years. Not that I am finished writing, speaking, or singing. No, I don’t want to presume anything. But I am also living the words of Ezekiel and Isaiah in a profound way at this moment, such that it calls for a time of silence and reflection, especially as world events begin to speak for themselves. 

Every day, I pray for the readers here, and continue to carry all of you in my heart. Please remember me too in your prayers.

May Jesus always and everywhere be loved and glorified.

I will sing to the Lord all my life,
make music to my God while I live. 
Bless the Lord, my soul.
(Psalm 104)

 

 

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1. cf. On the Eve
2. Homily, Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin, Columbia; ewtnnews.com
3. cf. Be Faithful
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