Joe Maye won’t be around for the finals…and ain’t that a shame.
Earlier this week, Joe lit up the stage with an extraordinary performance on NBC’s ‘The Voice.’
His take on a Doobie Brothers classic, well…let’s just say it put a spell on me.
You know it’s true…because I’ve now given Joe’s version of ‘Long Train Runnin’ a prime spot in my iTunes library (a download, alas, that was insufficient to ‘save’ him as a contestant on the show).
I could try to describe how Joe transformed the song…how his fresh take managed to breathe new life into a time-worn ditty…but you really ought to check it out yourself:
Having heard Joe Maye’s version of the song, it occurs to me that it would be hard to go back to the original. Joe broke open its essence. He found a depth in the lyrics that I’d never noticed before. And he did it by focusing, musically…soulfully, on the hook:
Where would you be now
For me, it was a timely reminder that the right voice can make a big difference.
Timely, because we are asked to tune into a particular voice…in the passage from the gospel of John that we hear at Sunday Mass this week.
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.
It’s a big promise Jesus offers, and a comforting one. Trouble is, we have to use senses other than our hearing in order to perceive Jesus’ voice these days. Christ’s Word, in some respects, comes to us disguised…and often it’s tucked in amongst many competing voices, messages, media and events.
So how do we know that it’s the voice of Jesus we’re hearing at any given moment, in any particular situation?
One solution, surely, is to gather frequently with others who know the Voice – and in our communion, seek out the reassurance that it is the Shepherd indeed who is speaking to us.
At the same time, we are reminded in another of the Sunday readings that it’s best not to let our circle grow too narrow. Writing in the book of Revelation, the evangelist reports:
I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
This vision of ‘the great multitude’ challenges me a bit. It suggests that I might need to look beyond my intimate flock for encounters with the Lord…and perhaps be open to hearing the Voice in unexpected places or settings, too.
It’s a bit like hearing a brand new take on a raggedly ol’ tune. It may take some effort, but upon further review, I may well come to recognize familiar notes and cadences in the unexpected encounter:
Where would you be now
Sure, it’s a little scary to step outside familiar surroundings. But as I venture forth, I can do so with confidence that Jesus can be found in the great multitude, in the vast beyond. And I think John shows us at least one effective way to do just that: He encourages us to recognize the Voice in the promise that is offered, in the fruit of the encounter.
We come to know that the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd are one, because in both we find the Way to eternal life:
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.