The courage of Joshua Wong

I am shaken when I read of the courage of some young people. 

They cross the threshold of fear with seeming ease. Joshua Wong is 22 and has become a voice and a symbol of the resistance in Hong Kong to the encroachment of China on the precious liberties secured by the territory when it was handed back by Britain to China in 1997 after 150 years of colonial occupation. Where can we, many of us hardened by years of complicity in injustice, find the courage to give something that will make a difference?

One day, when there was a large crowd listening, Jesus was speaking of the kingdom of God. The day drew on and the disciples advised him to give them a break and send them away to look for food and shelter as ‘this is a deserted place’.  It was the obvious thing to do and shifted the burden of poor planning away from them and onto the people. But Jesus shook them by saying, ‘You give them something to eat!’ ‘What! Us? We have nothing but a few loaves and a couple of fish.’

We know what happened next but the point is surely that they had to do something.  They had to begin.  Where it would lead they did not know.  And that is true for us.  We like to see our way clear from the start.  We don’t like leaving things open.  But leaving things open is precisely what we have to do if we are to have courage: we have to set out even if, like Abraham, we don’t know where we are going. The Our Father contains the line, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Sure, this means give us the basic needs we have for survival and growth.  But it also means give us what we need even if we do not yet know what it is we need.

The ancient feast of Corpus Christi was given to us as a moment, long after we have celebrated Holy Thursday and the Passion, to reflect on what Jesus did that night when he took some bread and some wine into his hands. He did not take water because water is not ‘made by hands’.  He took things we make and raised them up so that they became transformed into himself, and himself crucified. It is important we do not think of this as some sort of symbolic act which one interpretation of the word ‘memorial’ might suggest. We see many statues put up ‘in memory’ of famous people.  These are strictly there to remind us of past heroes.  But Jesus is not a past hero. He is our living God revealed to us and, in an action of supreme self-giving, sharing his divine life with us daily.

Food and drink nourish us in ways that only medical science can monitor. The rest of us just get on with life and discover we grow – and age. But this food and drink, this bread and wine, transforms us in terms of our whole humanity – body and spirit.  If we can bring our ‘something’ to this encounter we will find ourselves changed and we will be able to show the courage of people like Joshua Wong.

23 June 2019                           Corpus Christi

Genesis 14:18-20                    I Corinthians 11:23-26                        Luke 9:11-17

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