LETTING GO AND GIVING UP (Mt 9:36-10:8): 15 June 2008 (Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time)

LETTING GO AND GIVING UP (Mt 9:36-10:8):  15 June 2008 (Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

It was probably the opening shot of One Republic’s music video of their song, “Say (All I Need), that first caught my attention.  It was unmistakably the Sacrecoeur Cathedral in Montmartre, Paris, with its signature immaculate facade.

I remember the very first time I found myself there over twenty years ago.  I  was a young seminarian sent to Paris, a member of a skeletal crew of four, on an assignment to film a religious documentary.  Awed by the city’s beauty, culture, and history, I was also fascinated to see mingled among the many tourists the city’s residents–hopping into Metros, marching to work in their business suits, bread peeking out of their brief cases or tucked under their arms, or simply enjoying their breakfast at the sidewalk cafes.

Paris was–and will always be–the city of my ‘could have been’s.’ As I wandered around the city in between filming, I also wondered about my life.  I had entered the seminary five years earlier.  I had given up a career not because I was sure about becoming a priest, but precisely because I was unsure and needed to find out.

“Once and for all!” I declared to myself–and to God.

But after five years of prayer and study, I was still unsure.  And so that beautiful spring day in Paris, as I ascended the pigeon-scattered steps of Montmartre, with the cathedral looming over me, I was seized with a flood of emotions–the entire weird mix of it:  the eagerness about the future but also its uncertainties, the hopefulness about my life as well as all my fears and anxieties.  I still felt that initial desire, stronger than ever, to serve God, but at the same time, I was also haunted by the things I had given up and left behind.  So there I was, grappling yet once again with the ‘what if’s’ of my life.  I didn’t realize it then, but there was something almost symbolic about the scene as I stood there caught between the cathedral dedicated to the Sacred Heart above me and the glistening city of Paris below me.

Since then, after many years of stumbling and getting up, I’ve realized that the one single thing that one shouldn’t do in this business of letting go of things is to give up on one’s self.  It turns out that God provides what we need as long as we don’t give up on ourselves–and on him.  And the best news of all? Surveying the past twenty years, I realize that–to my utter embarrassment, but also to my eternal gratitude–I’ve received so much more than I had given up.  The Lord has kept his promise of the hundredfold.

Twenty years later, hearing One Republic’s song, “Say (All I Need)” is like discovering an old, discarded letter I had written to myself years ago, but never got around to reading.   Its emotions are strangely familiar, and its words capture–quite eerily–how I felt then.  And as it does to me, it probably will also speak to others who seek to find God’s Will even as they find themselves caught between the spiritual and the secular.

The song talks about that familiar pain of saying “No” to the things we have to give up.  The pain can be so great because our needs can be so fierce. The whole process of letting go, in my experience, can be better described as a prying away.

“Bless my soul! You’re a lonely soul ’cause you can’t let go of anything you hold.”  That initial giving up and letting go hasn’t stopped and continues to this day.  At another point, the singer repeats the rhetorical question:  “Do you think you can find it?  Better than you had it?”  I don’t know about you, but if you ask me, the repeated urging sounds like the voice of a terribly stricken conscience.

But more than anything else, the song offers a word of encouragement to all those who are struggling to follow the Lord and to serve him–and not just for priests and nuns, but for all of us because we all of us have to do some letting go at some point in our lives.

Its advice to those who find it difficult and even painful to let go?  Remember scripture–specifically, what the Lord says about the Son of Man having no place to rest his head–and like a desperate mantra, repeat it to yourself as often as needed:  “Say, `All I need is the air I breathe, and a place to rest my head…'”

Today, Father’s Day, our Lord reminds us to pray that God will send more laborers to the vineyard.  Spend a couple of minutes praying for the laborers too.

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “Is there something–or someone–in your life that the Lord may be asking you to give up or leave behind?  Keep in mind that the Lord asks this of us only if that thing or person stands in the way of our loving God and serving others. Think about it, and if you feel up to it, share a thought, a feeling, or even a question.

Click play to watch One Republic’s music video of “Say (All I Need).”

If you can’t watch the video, click here.

SAY (ALL I NEED)
by One Republic

Do you know where your heart is?
Do you think you can find it?
Or did you trade it for something, somewhere, better just to have it?
Do you know where your love is?
Do you think that you lost it?
You felt it so strong but nothing’s, turned out how you want it

Well, bless my soul
You’re a lonely soul
‘Cause you won’t let go, of anything you hold
“Well, all I need is the air I breathe and a place to rest my head”

Do you know what your fate is?
And now you’re trying to shake it?
You’re doing your best dance,your best look
You’re praying that you’ll make it

Well, bless my soul
You’re a lonely soul
‘Cause you won’t let go, of anything you hold
“Well, all I need is the air I breathe and a place to rest my head
Say ll I need is the air I breathe and a place to rest my head”

Do you think I can find it?
Do you think you can find it?
Do you think you can find it, better than you had it?

Do you think I can find it?
Do you think you can find it?
Do you think you can find it (yeah), better than you had it? (better than you had it?)

“Say all I need, is the air I breathe,and a place,to rest my head
Say all I need, is the air I breathe,and a place,to rest my head”

Do you know where the end is?
Do you think you can see it?
Well, until you get there, go on, go ahead and scream it
Just say…

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