An earlier heaven

Viewed from a satellite in space, especially at night, an erupting volcano on earth can be clearly visible. Even a bush fire can be seen. If the satellite had a high precision camera it could pick up the smaller fires of families cooking in the open. 

And we can imagine a lens that identifies the smallest flicker of flame on earth.  Perhaps we can go further. With the eye of the spirit, we can see (in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins) the world

…. charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.

This perspective from space can serve as a parable.  There are the people and the events that appear in our headlines and sound bites.  There are also those revealed in the more modest reaches of the social media.  But the majority of people and events are hidden from everyone except the handful immediately concerned.  Yet the tiniest human effort, even if only known to one person – the one who experiences it, does not go unnoticed.

Among the ripples that swirl around Christmas is the family.  Jesus was born into a family.  Despite its unique nature it had all the marks of what we know as family.  Nothing much is spelt out for us but we quickly pick up the intensity of the mother’s care and the prodigious alacrity of Joseph.  True, the few details we are given tell us this is no ordinary family – if our child went missing we would not expect to find her sitting among a bunch of university professors, “listening to them and asking them questions” – but for the most part they led an ordinary life.  They were like any other family in Nazareth, a town – by the way – so unknown it appeared in no contemporary records.

On the first Sunday after Christmas we celebrate this family and we celebrate our own families, which vary in a spectrum from immensely happy to extremely dysfunctional.  A good family gives us a great start in life but we can survive and surmount a dysfunctional one.  Lots of people have.

We have this moment to celebrate family – this amazing human institution where we find ourselves in our love for each other, where even our tiniest words and gestures have an impact – and are held by the One created this universe and designed the first family.   “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” (George Bernard Shaw).

30 December 2018                  the Holy Family

Ben Sira 3:2 … 24                   Colossians 3:12-21                  Luke 2:41-52

Book Promotion: Beyond Appearances

A selection of these columns has recently appeared in book form under the title, Beyond Appearances, published by Weaver Press, Harare.  The selection covers the period 2005-08 and readers have already remarked how topical they still are a dozen years on. The author is David Harold Barry, a Jesuit priest who was welcomed to Zimbabwe in 1966 and is still there.  He wrote under the pseudonym Ngomakurira, the drums that sound though the drummers can’t be traced, in the mistaken belief that he could not be traced!

The goal of these pieces is to look at events “with rinsed eyes”.  Try to see what is really happening and what chord does it strike with the reader’s experience.’ …what chord it strikes with the reader’s experience. “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,” (E.M.Forster).  Anyone who writes or teaches hopes to help people change and grow.  But how one says things is as important as what one says. The writer has to choose his words – and punctuation! – with utmost care.

The book can be acquired via Amazon at great expense, or via AFCAST at Arrupe University, Harare, or the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Harare, for a fifth of the price, that is, $5.

Zimbabwe in Deeper Crisis - Series No. 2
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