Hineni – Here I am Lord.

Readings 2nd Sunday in ordinary year, year A, pater Haavar Simon Nilsen OP 

The Gospel is quite often preached without us even noticing, like through words of our friends, or in the radio, in the news, and quite often in pop music. This is certainly the case when it comes to a voice like Leonard Cohen. Just before he died, Cohen released his last album called “You want it darker”. It has been called a masterpiece but also the darkest album in his career, a career that has now come to an end. In a press conference held in October, less then a month before he passed away, he commented on his work, and referred to something he said to the New Yorker earlier:

“I recently said I was ready to die, and I think that was exaggerating. One was given to self- dramatization from time to time. I intend to live for ever.”

Maybe we should ask ourselves as well, not only to be ready to die, but how we prepare to live forever? Or maybe we shall ask ourselves: How do we live eternal life here and now? Because, eternal life, that is the core of the readings today. Redemption is here, the light that restores the entire humanity and establishes an everlasting, perfect love relation with God.

Even though Cohen is not confessing any particular faith, his texts are built on the Judeo-Christian universe. In one of his texts, he says:

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Seen in a Christological perspective, these poetic lines perfectly describes Jesus’ work of salvation. Because who else is the I-person in these lines if not our Lord. Jesus is the looser, he is the one broken and lame, The Lord is the one carrying the shame. In faithful love, he accepts his chalice. From the moment of intense prayer in Gethsemane Jesus dives into the darkness. And we, the human race, is the one killing the flame sent from above to this world. His creation tried to blow out the divine, saving light, as we do it again and again until our own time. Rightly, the light descended out of our sight, from the cross into the darkness of hell, but it never died. It lit up even the darkest corner, and made the night become broad daylight, as we read in psalm 139.

The chosen one breaks the boundaries of our existence, opening our eyes to a hope in which we can fully trust. This precious gift is given through one man, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who freely becomes the sacrifice in order to save us all.

In the song of Cohen, this willingness is expressed through the Hebrew word “Hineni” – meaning “Here I am”. This word has a broad reference in the bible. When God approached Abraham to ask him to offer his only son as a sacrifice Abraham responded, “Hineni!” When God called out to Moses from the burning bush, Moses replied, “Hineni!” And when God called out to the young boy Samuel in his sleep he responded “Hineni!” All these moments are pointing forward to the humble servant who fullfill the “hineni” with perfect love.

In the last lines of a review of Cohens album in the Telegraph, the journalist wrote: “I am not sure it could get any darker than this but there is redemptive beauty to be found in someone facing the inevitable with defiant humanity.” In a Christian perspective, it is not limited to defiant humanity. True redemptive beauty is to be found in in someone facing the inevitable with defiant divinity, lifting the creation into eternal life.

Our salvation is rooted in Christ’s “hineni”. Let us then respond to this saving “hineni” of the Lord with gratitude and joy. Let us who were given such precious gift through his willingness to sacrifice himself for us, respond with some of that same willingness to make sacrifices and to love. Let us be both humble and courageous in our lives, so that we, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, may acclaim from our hearts and from our lips,: Here I am, I’m ready my Lord.