Yesterday we read how Cardinal Bawoobr said that sometimes ‘we get so caught up with a particular culture at a certain point in its evolution that we stay there and are not even aware of the fact that it is dynamic and evolving or that some elements need evangelisation.’ It’s a challenge for the Church wherever she finds herself.A challenge for apostles in Kent today, as it was for Augustine of Canterbury in 597 – witness his letters to Gregory recorded by Bede – and as it has always been for Bawoobr’s confreres. Being an African from Ghana did not make it easy for him to work thousands of miles away in Tanzania.
The Love of God and the love of neighbour come from the same source: we are challenged to approach our neighbour as poor and open-handed as when we approach the Lord. When Jesus tells us that ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven’, (Matt 7:21) it is in the context of candidates standing before the judgement seat, boasting: ‘did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’, and claiming to have the glamorous gifts.
When it comes to Judgement, Metz reminds us, those are not the things that God will be looking at. He empties himself of his rights as creator, and will judge us on how we demonstrate his power, but on how we love our sisters and brothers:
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt 25 34-40)
It’s Saint David’s Feast Day, and I cannot resist calling on Dylan Thomas in this context: we are called to love, not to be Pelagians, like Mrs Ogmore Pritchard, in Under Milk Wood with our hearts full of ‘tasks in order’ for ourselves or others, trying to tame God to fit our lust for domination of a world we convince ourselves we can control: ‘I must put my pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas, I must take my cold bath which is good for me’. Dylan has Mrs Ogmore Pritchard admonish: ‘before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.’ Deeds of control, of power and facile false prophecy are no substitute for straightforward care of our neighbour; that is love, that is evangelisation, that is open-handed evangelisation.
The challenge this Lent as always, is to deepen our awareness of this. It is good to remember that this is what we are made for as humans. We ought to be grateful that what is instinctive in the little girl with the rag doll or the young mother who ceases her self-harm, has been revealed to us in all its glory by Christ, the sun who stands at the door and knocks, the man who shows us his open, wounded hands and side, who asks, do you love me, and commissions us: feed my lambs, feed my sheep.