SURVIVING THE WORLD WE KNOW (Jn 6:51-58): 25 May 2008 (Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ)
Lately, reading the papers or watching the news has been more painful than usual, thanks to all those recent tragedies. As a result, one can’t help but identify with the main character in Collective Soul’s music video of “The World I Know,” a man commuting to work, but driven to despair by all the bad news in the world.
“The World I Know” has, of course, suddenly been made famous again when it was performed by the newest American Idol, David Cook, during the AI finale. Cook’s heart-wrenching version, which won him the title despite Simon Cowell’s prediction, is certainly a ‘must-see’, but Collective Soul’s music video is also worth watching.
The video features a guy who just about gives up on this world. He does exactly what the song’s refrain says: “So I walk up on high / And I step to the edge / To see my world below.” He literally climbs up a building, steps onto its edge, and seriously considers ending it all. Then as he is about to jump, suddenly, out of nowhere, a pigeon, as though heaven-sent, perches on his outstretched arm. He is caught off guard and becomes enthralled by the bird. He decides to feed it with a doughnut, and before he knows it, this world notwithstanding, he feels that life is still worth living, after all.
These days we all could sure use a visitation by some bird from the sky. We need some kind of grace to descend from heaven. I think that’s what our Lord may be trying to say when he talks about himself as the “Living Bread” in today’s reading:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Knowing how the Lord’s earthly life ended, we know all too well that “to live forever” does not refer to an exemption from death. Clearly, it refers to life after death, but I think it also refers to being able to live our lives in the here and now–i.e., surviving this world and inhabiting it in a way that’s free from despair.
There are a thousand and one reasons why we should despair: the thousand and one ways that things go wrong, the thousand and one ways that we do wrong to others and to ourselves.
Today, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lord tells us that it is possible to live in this tear-drenched, blood-soaked world of ours. And it is possible because of his self-sacrifice, the shedding of his own tears and the pouring of his own blood. Ironically, what allows us to keep walking away from the edge–as the guy does in the video–is precisely the fact that the Lord himself did not walk away from the edge, and that he instead–in our stead–did step off the edge for us. The grace that descends upon that guy in the video and upon us all, the dove that dissolves his despair and ours as well is the fruit of the Lord’s self-sacrificing, saving love.
And so next time your dark clouds scatter suddenly and your deep sadness lifts for no apparent reason at all, remember why: Jesus.
So here’s a Quick Question for you: “Do you recall a time when you felt truly near the edge? What saved you from that despair?”
Note: To watch Collective Soul’s music video of “The World I Know,” click here. Here are the lyrics of the song:
THE WORLD I KNOW
Has our conscience shown?
Has the sweet breeze blown?
Has all the kindness gone?
Hope still lingers on.
I drink myself of newfound pity
Sitting alone in New York City
And I don’t know why.
Are we listening
To hymns of offering?
Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
All the words that I’ve been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself
As the tears roll down.
‘Cause it’s the world I know.
It’s the world I know.
(image: Destruction from the Sichuan Quake)