Where do we find God in our lives? Where does God find us? Where do we find Christ in our lives? Where does Christ find us? I found God and Christ in my life again and He found me in the songs of the musical group U2, but it was actually through the power of the Word revealed.
It shocked me to find Him there. At the time, I didn’t even know I was looking for Him. But there He was… revealed in the lyrics of a song.
In the 90s, as a newly minted lector, I was mostly going through the motions at Mass, trying to keep my wife happy by going to Church every week and wanting to model good stewardship for our two impressionable boys. They were in a Catholic school after all. I read the Word and tried to feel God’s message, but it wasn’t working for me. I felt like a fraud at the ambo.
Then in the late 90s, I heard the song “Beautiful Day” on the radio and heard the line, “See the bird with the leaf in her mouth… after the floods all the colors came out.” That sounds like the Noah’s Ark story, I thought. How odd? Curious, I bought the album and started to examine the words. U2 was one of my favorite groups when I was in college and a young adult. I liked their music and thought the messages of love, hope and charity, and especially their humanitarian actions, were noble, but didn’t think much else. Little did I know faith was a part of their message. I’ve since learned that lead singer and lyricist Bono is known by certain U2 followers (devout Christians hip to the hidden message) for lacing the Word in song. Most of U2’s songs have a suffering servant tone familiar in the words of Isaiah.
The new U2 album was released several weeks ago. My wife sent me a link to the online version and eagerly I opened it up and started streaming it one Monday morning while preparing my day at work. When the song “Moment Of Surrender” (click on post title to hear the song on YouTube) came on I was transfixed. I loved the lyric, “It’s not if I believe in love… but if love believes in me… oh believe in me.” But the most touching lyrics hit me hard, “I was speeding off the subway… through the Stations of the Cross… every eye looking every other way… counting down till the pain would stop. At the moment of surrender… I folded to my knees… I did not notice the passersby and they did not notice me.” As I heard these words, tears began to fall down my cheeks. Here I am at work listening to U2 and, through the power and presence of God and the Word, Christ’s sacrifice was once again “staring back at me” to use Bono’s words. I was weeping tears for Christ’s gift to me. I was weeping thanksgiving to God for finding me in such an usual way. Hard to believe such a beautiful Lenten message is found in the simple lyrics of a rock song!
What I first noticed about the song was felt by its creators. Noted producer Brian Eno says “it was the most magical experience I ever had in a studio.” The band only recorded the song once. Each band member came in and improvised his part in one take. He said, “Bono’s singing was like a knife to the heart. Heartbreakingly agonized and vulnerable.” The song was intuitively created. Inspired. Bono said immediately after they finished recording it and everyone was standing around in stunned silence, “I usually go into a studio to find music. In this instance the music found us.”
In the song, “White As Snow,” there’s the line, “Once I knew there was a love divine… then came a time I thought it knew me not. Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not? Only the lamb as white as snow.” As I read that line out loud, my youngest son said, “We were just studying that in school. That’s Isaiah.” The moment he said it, I opened the Liturgy Of The Hours Morning Prayer, and it was Isaiah talking about forgiveness of sins by becoming white as snow.
The power of God’s Word woke up my heart and changed my view of the world around me forever. It used to be that the Word I’d deliver in church felt old fashioned or antiquated. Until I heard the Word through a modern prism and my heart awoke. To quote a priest friend, “the language changes, but revelation does not.” I heard God calling me. Now, the power of God’s Word is leading me to places I never thought I’d go. It continues to amaze me as it lights my path. To use an old cliché, God works in mysterious ways. Or, as Bono describes the Holy Spirit, “She moves in ‘Mysterious Ways.’”