On donating bone marrow, or, the small man learns a lesson

I never really got the Feast of Corpus Christi. Sure, I’m a big fan of the Catholic sacraments and all, but it just seemed unnecessary. Don’t we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ every Sunday, even every day?

But it finally clicked a few weeks ago. I was prayfully considering donating bone marrow, as I had been selected to be a match through bethematch.org (sign up, save a life!). So I sat down to prayer to ask for guidance, and after 20 minutes of nothing I decided to check out the readings for the day.

The Gospel was this:

Jesus said to them,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,

you do not have life within you…

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood

remains in me and I in him.”

So there I am, 21st century  Catholic person, reading a 1st or 2nd century text on the mystical Eucharistic theology of the Johannine community, and from that finding guidance on what to do with a medical procedure that would only be possible with today’s science and technology.

And it did give me guidance: You are what you eat, little man, and it’s time to share.

So then I decided to look up the disease: Severe Aplastic Anemia. It sounded brutal. The bone marrow stops functioning, so blood cell counts drop, and then fatigue, infection, weakness set in, even death if it’s left untreated.

But it was my wife who finally convinced me, through both her words and actions. Knowing that it would be her that had to sacrifice more if I was out of commission (we have a 6 month old baby boy), I asked her what she thought and she simply said: “Well you have to do it.”

Behind that simple phrase is the wisdom and compassion that only comes from 33 long hours of labor to deliver our son, from someone who has sacrificed her body, mind, and sanity to support this young life day after day after day. In comparison to what her and a lot of other mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers do every day,  a bone marrow donation is a small thing.

So I guess that’s what finally clicked: this feast is all around us. Everyday people lay down their lives in love for their family, their students, their friends, their community members, for those on the margins of the society.

But even beyond the human, we see this all around us in this beautiful cosmos: In bird nests and black holes, suppertime and supernovas, in the living, aching web of joy and suffering to which we all belong.

WE ARE ONE, whether we like it or not. Whether we build walls or build relationships, whether we fight or reconcile, we are built to give the life-transforming power of love to one another.

Before I went in to my surgery, I had an insight that I would “see God” that day. And it ended up being a tough day. I got really sick from the anesthesia, some of the staff seemed confused about how to treat me post op, and people around me were generally vulnerable, overwhelmed, and scared. In a word, human.

The Feast of Corpus Christi reminds me of this, and of how God chooses to come to us. Not in power and glory, but in humility and vulnerability.

And I did see God that day, in the super pregnant nurse trying to draw my blood from a bad vein, in the doctor behind the curtain trying to calm a scared patient, in the limp anesthetized bodies wheeled out of surgery, in my loved ones worried faces, in my own fainting, dizziness and frustration.

Broken and shared. The life of the world.

The Incarnation is everywhere, it’s all around us. In spirituality and science, in suppertime and supernovas, in all the broken and beautiful things we do in the name of goodness and love, in the name of the clear bright light.

Welcome.

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