My nervousness about making a mission appeal before the parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Families in Center Line, Michigan only increased when I tried to sing the opening song at the Saturday afternoon Mass. As usual, my voice was off key and I looked around to see if my sisters and brothers were covering their ears like my dog used to do whenever I tried to sing any popular song during my adolescence.
I did not recall ever hearing the song — “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor” — used to begin a Mass.
It was hard for me to focus on the readings, and I reviewed and rehearsed my talk in my head as my time approached to speak shortly after the homily on behalf of Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
Suddenly I found myself taking out my pen and writing on my prepared sheet of talking points, “Hearing the Cry of the Poor.” I began with my prepared talk and then stopped myself. I thanked the pianist and vocalist for inspiring me, and I asked the parishioners if we were just singing the song or if we actually believed that “the Lord hears the cry of the poor.” For if we believe, I said, then we must listen and respond to the cry of the people in Bolivia with disabilities who are asking for justice, compassion and dignity.
The response to my mission appeal talk was a true sharing of generosity. Immediately after the Mass, the musicians told me that no one had ever incorporated a song into their homily or talk. They offered to play and sing the same song at the Sunday Mass. I readily agreed.
Later, I recognized that the Gospel instruction that we not worry about what we are to say when we speak in name of our Creator (Mk 13:11) is true. The Holy Spirit made me listen to the song inspired by Psalm 34, “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor,” and I merely repeated the words I had been given.