Two classes that are often undervalued and sometimes eliminated when school budgets need to be cut are music and art appreciation. Yet those two subjects are important. They help to form cultured, well-educated people.

Music appreciation introduces students to different styles and forms of music. It teaches them what to listen for and how to understand what they are hearing. It exposes them to music they may have never heard.

Art appreciation opens the eyes of students to a world of painting, sculpture, and drawing. It helps them to look beyond what they see and to recognize the intricacies of a piece of art and the vision of life being conveyed by the artist.

As unexpected as it might seem, this Sunday’s First Reading (1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19) is related to music appreciation, while Sunday’s Gospel (John 1:35-42) is connected to art appreciation.

In the First Reading, we read how Eli, the priest, helps the young boy Samuel to appreciate what he is hearing. Samuel is awakened three times by a voice in the night that he takes to be that of Eli.

After the third interruption, we are told that “Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.”

Eli then helps Samuel to recognize that the voice he is hearing is no human voice, but rather the voice of God calling Samuel to serve him.

Young Samuel needed a spiritual mentor to help him appreciate what he was hearing.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist and two of his disciples are standing together when a man walks by. The disciples do not appreciate the significance of the stranger until John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

If John the Baptist had not helped his two disciples recognize who had just walked past them, they may never have become followers of Jesus.

Those two disciples needed John the Baptist to help them appreciate the importance of the stranger they were seeing.

Like Samuel and like those disciples of John the Baptist, we also need help to appreciate and recognize the voice and the presence of God.

The Church is just such a mentor and guide. Through its teaching and preaching the Church helps us to appreciate the message of God found in the words of the Old and New Testament. The Church teaches us how to listen and discern what God is trying to say to us as we hear and read his words found in the scriptures.

The Church also serves as our mentor and guide when it comes to appreciating the presence of God. It teaches us to discern the presence of the Lamb of God in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, in the pouring of baptismal water, in the other sacraments, and in our fellow Christians.

The Church also provides us with spiritual directors, confessors, catechists, vowed religious men and women, and faith sharing groups that can open our ears and eyes to the message and presence of the Lord in our personal lives.

Appreciating music and art enriches life. But nothing enriches us more than appreciating and recognizing the voice and presence of God.

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski