Itzak Perlman, the world famous violinist, has performed magnificently throughout his decades long career. If you’ve ever seen him in concert, you know that he walks with crutches and two braces on his legs, due to the fact that he had polio as a child. When he walks on stage one step at a time, slowly, painfully, it is an unforgettable sight. He makes his way to his chair, sits down, puts his crutches on the floor, and undoes the clasps on the leg braces. Then he bends down and picks up his violin, places it under his chin and nods to the conductor that he is ready to begin.
One night, however, something went wrong. Just as he finished playing the first few measures, one of the strings on his violin broke. You know the sound when you hear it, it’s like a pistol shot. There is no mistaking what it means, so everyone knew he would have to get up, put the braces back on, pick up his crutches and slowly make his way off stage to replace the string. But this time he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes, and signaled the conductor to begin again.
The orchestra began and he played again with such passion and power, that both the other musicians and the audience were stunned. You see, everyone knows that it is impossible to play violin with only three strings. Mr. Perlman refused to accept that, and so he modulated, transposed, recomposed the piece in his head as he played. Those who were there said it sounded like he had somehow completely retuned the remaining strings to the point where the piece never sounded better. And when he finished, there was a stunned silence in the opera hall. Then people were on their feet, cheering and screaming in appreciation. Mr. Perlman stood and motioned for the audience to quiet down, and then he said in a humble voice, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
And so, as we ourselves struggle to make sense of our lives, as we wrestle with our addictions, as we try to manage our time and support the people of the parish and make good choices, perhaps it is instructive for us to remember his words. Right now, while we are in the prime of our lives, we are able to make music for God with all the gifts at our disposal. But someday, when some of those gifts are no longer ours, we will continue to make music with whatever we have left. And it will be magnificent.