Today’s Sunday Gospel reading talks about the Sondheim musical and Tim Burton film, “Sweeney Todd.” Stephen Sondheim celebrated his 90th birthday recently, so this is my own tribute to a songwriter who has through the years been such an inspiration and influence–and who has so often–through the haunting, profound lyrics of his songs–taken the words right out of my heart.
There are many things you don’t expect to find in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” After all, it’s a dark and strange musical that tells the story of an embittered barber who cuts his clients’ throats, and with the help of his partner, Mrs. Lovett bakes the victims into meat pies!
In such a play (or movie), the last thing you would expect to hear is a love song as tender as “Not While I’m Around.”
He’s the disciple who always seems to be getting the tough questions from the Lord. When they found themselves surrounded by a hungry crowd of 5000, our Lord turned to Philip and asked him, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
Of course, Philip said what any rational person would: “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
This has got to be one of the saddest and truest statements we can read anywhere. It says it so simply and quietly. And when I try to imagine the speaker or the writer, whoever it is, I detect no trace of anger or bitterness in his face or voice; just a sad, quiet acceptance or perhaps a resignation to the way the things are.
No one who has experienced betrayal can disagree with it. What makes betrayal so heartbreaking is that by its very definition, it can, as the statement goes, never come from our enemies. Betrayal is a crime reserved only for those we trust and love.