Sunday, June 22, 2014

Even When We Let Him Go...

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (A)

Well you only need the light when it's burning low.
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.
Only know you love her when you let her go...

Sisters and brothers, do you find these words familiar at all? Perhaps some of us may recognise them as the opening lines to that haunting song performed by the English singer and songwriter who calls himself Passenger. The song is entitled Let Her Go. And it’s a sad song. A lament. A song sung by someone remembering and mourning a broken relationship. Pining for a lost love. Yearning for what could have been. A song sung by someone who has begun to realise why his relationships get broken in the first place. Why his love was lost.

The reason is simple. It has to do with something that perhaps all of us have experienced in ourselves. At one time or another. We all have a tendency to take things and people for granted. We don’t cherish what we have until it’s gone. We only need the light when it's burning low. We only miss the sun when it starts to snow (or rain). We only know we love someone after we have let her/him go. It’s all quite tragic, isn’t it, sisters and brothers? And all the more so, because of the inevitability of it all. We just don’t seem able to appreciate those we love. Until it’s too late. Until we lose them. Until we break our relationship. Until we let them go.

And, strange as it may sound, I’m reminded of this song today, because I think it helps to illustrate quite well–though in an indirect way–what our Corpus Christi celebration is all about. To see the connection, we need to look a little more closely at our first reading. Remember the context. The people of Israel have been wandering in the wilderness for forty long years. They’ve experienced many ups and downs. And now, finally, they reach their destination. They find themselves by the eastern bank of the river Jordan. The Promised Land is just across the river. They’ve made it. It’s a happy occasion. A time to celebrate.

But, before letting them occupy the land that God is giving them, Moses gathers the people for a final pep talk. He warns them to remain faithful to God. To keep the Law that God gave them at Mount Sinai. How does Moses motivate the people to do this? He invites them to remember. To remember their experiences of the past. And we all know what these experiences are.

For one thing, they are experiences of Israel’s infidelity to God. Experiences of how, even though God had worked mighty miracles to free them from slavery in Egypt, Israel remained repeatedly rebellious. Resistant to God’s hand of friendship. Even as God was giving them the Law on Sinai, they broke their relationship with God by trying to replace Him. They fashioned and worshipped an idol. A false god. A golden calf. And, even though God was leading them to a land overflowing with milk and honey, they complained repeatedly of the hardship they had to endure on the way. Threatened, continually,  to give up the journey. To go back into slavery. To stop following the Lord.

In other words, from one perspective, the experiences of Israel in the wilderness are not unlike what is described in the song Let Her Go. They are experiences of having taken someone for granted. Of breaking a relationship. Of continually letting God go. So that the exercise of remembering, which Moses invites Israel to undertake in the first reading, could so easily have taken the form of a tragedy. A lament. A sad sad song of what could have been. Of a relationship that is broken. Of a love that is lost.

And yet, it is not. The first reading is filled with joy and hope. Instead of sadness and regret. It is filled with purpose and determination. Instead of dejection and despair. How did this come about? We know the answer. Tragedy is turned into celebration. Sorrow to elation. Lament to jubilation. For only one reason. Simply because, even though the people have taken God for granted, God has refused to leave them alone. Has insisted on guiding and protecting them through the dangers of the desert. Making water flow for them from the rock. Feeding them with manna from the sky. Patiently allowing Himself to be taken for granted. Stubbornly refusing to let His people go.

And isn’t this our experience as well? Isn’t this what we celebrate at Corpus Christi? And, indeed, at every offering of the Eucharist. We remember how, in our own history as a people, we have allowed God to be taken for granted. Have broken our relationship with God. Have even broken the body of God’s only begotten Son. Have tortured Him and hung him on a Cross. In the Eucharist, we remember how we have let our God go.

And yet, our memory is not a sad song of loss and regret. As it might so easily have been. Instead it is a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving. Of power and hope. We rejoice in the precious gift of the Body and Blood of Christ. Broken and poured out for us. As a touching and empowering reminder of God’s unconquerable love and care for us. We remember how, even though we may have taken God for granted. Have worshipped false gods. God still insists on accompanying us. On befriending us. On guiding and protecting us. As we make our way through the dangerous avenues of this passing world. Through the unavoidable stresses and strains of daily living. God simply refuses to let us go.

So that, as Jesus reminds us in the gospel, we who eat his flesh and drink his blood may have eternal life. Not just the mysterious life that awaits us beyond the grave. But that fullness of life, which begins already here and now. While we walk the face of this earth. The life enjoyed by those who live in Eucharistic ways. Those who imitate the example of Christ. Allowing themselves to be broken and poured out for the good of others.

And, when we do this, we actually become the very thing that we eat and drink. We become the Body and Blood of Christ. In and for our world. For, as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, the blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. By being part of this celebration, this memorial of the Lord’s Passion, we receive the power to share with others the fruits of His redemption. The transformation of sorrow into joy. Betrayal into trust. Brokenness into healing.

You only need the light when it's burning low.
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.
Only know you love her when you let her go…

Sisters and brothers, by any stretch of the imagination, these should be words of sadness. This should be a song of lament. And yet, for us, the sad song of loss and regret has been transformed into a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving. All because the God we have taken for granted, has broken His Body...
Has poured out his Blood...
For us...
For you...
For me...
For the life of the world...

Sisters and brothers, how is God refusing to let you go today?

1 comment:

  1. "I love the LORD, who listened to my voice in supplication,
    Who turned an ear to me on the day I called.
    I was caught by the cords of death; the snares of Sheol had seized me;
    I felt agony and dread.

    Then I called on the name of the LORD, “O LORD, save my life!”

    Gracious is the LORD and righteous; yes, our God is merciful.
    The LORD protects the simple; I was helpless, but he saved me.
    Return, my soul, to your rest; the LORD has been very good to you.

    For my soul has been freed from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
    I shall walk before the LORD, in the land of the living."

    Our God is ever so merciful, just like the prodigal father, waiting patiently at the gate for his son to return, and forgave him without any lamenting. At times when we strayed from Him or took His mercy for granted, He is always standing beside us, watching over us, drawing us even closer to Him.

    Peace, Zita


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