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The Gift

“D. D., please turn some music on.” The plea came from my eight-year old grandson, Benjamin, within two minutes of picking him up from school. The seventy-one year old news junkie driving the truck was, as usual, fixated on the non-stop hysteria emanating from the Sirius cable news stations. There was a mix of impeachment news, foreign policy discussion, and speculation about the Democratic debate. Ben would have none of it. I knew better than to argue with him, so I quickly tuned to my favorite classical music station. I confess that this was a somewhat passive aggressive move, and I braced for the inevitable protest: “Not that kind of music!”

Good fortune was on my side. Or maybe it was God, who I think ordinarily does not bother with such minor matters. But it felt like God. Or perhaps some divine subordinate whose job is to occasionally remind us of certain transcendent truths when God is busy with other things. Whatever the explanation, the music that reverberated from my speakers was Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. We tuned in at a lovely moment when the choir was elevating the ancient Latin to the sublime, the music soaring and profound. I glanced at Ben in the rearview mirror. He was utterly still and quiet, listening intently, momentarily mesmerized by the genius of Mozart. And he remained so for the next twenty minutes of our ride home.

He was not the only one. Driving quietly while listening to the Requiem, I contemplated once again the fact that my faith is partly anchored in the belief that quantum mechanics can’t explain the music of a Mozart or a Handel. It can’t explain the art of a Michelangelo, or the self-giving love of a Mother Teresa. It can’t explain these moments when something transcendent breaks through the noise of life and reminds us of the great Mystery that lies beyond our understanding. A Mystery that I call God.

The Requiem was Mozart’s final composition. Amid failing health, he had come to believe that he was writing it for his own funeral. And perhaps he was. But for me on this day, and maybe even in some mysterious way for young Ben, he was offering musical praise that reassures us that God is still in charge, and that the messiness of the life we now lead will one day be overcome by transcendent beauty that defies both reason and experience. In the midst of so much noise, it was twenty minutes of serenity. I received it as a gift from God.

Rev. Don Underwood