I cannot deny that I am a romantic optimist with a dash of pragmatism thrown in. So the words to the unseasonably chosen opening hymn of our Mass reflected for me a present reality..
and man, at war with man, hears not
the love-song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife;
and hear the angels sing!
Pair that with the closing verse, which, if we can be convinced in accepting the Love of God in Jesus and walk in the paths of peace and reconciliation then: indeed Christians and others might come to contribute to the whole world reflecting the joyful song of heaven.
We honour, love and cherish our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers, and with Christians we must come to see the inherent worth of humanity as the emerging truth in our societies. I have been reminded this past week how difficult that truth is, and that there is a very fine line to tread in talking about the conflict in the middle east which has in recent days captured our attention. Our children and their parents are talking about it, people at Mass and in all parts of our society are talking about it, and here at Tommy’s Baptism, we are talking and thinking about the lack of peace in our world and what kind of a world we want Tommy to grow up in and flourish.
As Christian people there is a difference between the things which affect us and those things which inform us.
We are all affected by world events, Government policy and the influence our taxes paid or not to the Emperor of the Exchequer has upon our community and society. The affects of Whitehall decisions are complex and as we so often know are only addressed at the ballot box… yet as Christians, what informs us is not the image of the emperors head on our coins or the coat of arms or standard of our Government.
It is the word which is indeed the image of God – Jesus and it is that Word which is the image of God emblazoned upon every one of us, upon every Palestinian and Jew, upon every prince and pauper, upon every activist and upon every victim of war which informs us to the type of world we want for Tommy and for Tommy to come to contribute towards.
In our Gospel the Pharisees are plotting a cunning plan. But as Christians we need not practice cunning, deceit and duplicity. We are called to be a straight forward people who see in the face of the person we are with at any given moment the precious image of the face of God.
Even though I was only 8 years old when the Falkland’s conflict began in 1982. My mother was terrified that my brother and myself were going to be ‘called up’. The worst I could have done would have been to throw my copy of the beano at the oncoming assailant and to shout you can’t catch me and run away to hide.
It is impossible for us to know in England this problem – Yet the world over children are being compelled to take up arms and are being taught from infancy to hate another person, culture or race and then to seek their destruction. Fascinating for me at least, when a teenager broke into the grounds of Windsor Castle on Christmas Day a couple of years ago, it was to settle a score from a 1919 massacre.
The conflicts of our world today began a long long time ago. And these ancient grudges which affects so many people’s behaviour must be tempered and informed by a narrative, a Christian narrative for us which informs us how to be. The Culture we are welcoming Tommy into today is one of clemency, justice, forgiveness, compassion, service and love of God and neighbour.
Not cunning and duplicitous – but straightforward – and in this present moment seeing in the face of Tommy the image of the face of God. And in bringing him up as a Christian person in this multicultural society, ensuring please parents and god-parents that the Christian story of love and forgiveness, of justice and reconciliation is part of tommy’s understanding of his nature and part in God’s story written and to be written in creation.
I wish I had the courage of so many of our Christian hero’s to always do the right thing. To put down the weapons of the tongue and offensive words and actions.
To be more like Jesus and less like the pharisee. This is our vocation, all of us.
The craftiness of the Pharisees shouldn’t really bother us. The taxes which are due to Ceasar, will be used in ways we cannot fully influence.
Yet what does influence all of us are the waters of Baptism and the life of God not only revealed in Jesus, but in the gathered community of faith, in the church.
A life where, if we serve one another, and see in those from this community and every single person who comes through these doors the image of the face of the God of peace, the God of love and reconciliation then the song of the nations might reflect the chorus of heaven.
I’ve never marched on the streets of London intentionally – but yesterday I accidentally got caught up in the Palestinian march through London. (as one does). 100, 000 people, nay, close on 200,000 people and as I walked to my meeting against the flow of people heading towards Downing Street… In each and every face, all I could see was the face of Jesus, the 1st century Palestinian Jew and refugee. I wept.
Tommy welcome to the Family of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, we pray for you, and that you will help us transform this world and build a peaceful kingdom.. the Kingdom of God. Amen