There was an unexpected poignancy to the Collect this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter: hearing it, saying it, praying it, in the wake of the news about the conception of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
May your people exult for ever, O God,
in renewed youthfulness of spirit,
so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption,
we may look forward in confident hope
to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Speaking a few days earlier Archbishop Welby had said: ‘We need to be a church where I am who I am because I am in Jesus Christ.’ Those words were especially important for him given the particular circumstances in which he spoke, but are of importance for us too. All the baptised are adopted in Christ, thus children of God in a particular way, not only in our creation, but in our participation, through baptism, in the life of the eighth day, the new creation. We are to be who we are in Jesus Christ.
We can hear lying behind the words of Archbishop Welby the words of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo to those receiving Eucharist for the first time: receive what you are, become what you receive. You are the Body of Christ, receive the Body of Christ.
They are heard in the wake also of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s recent letter,on the family and its importance for healthy human and spiritual development. In that letter the Pope frankly acknowledges the sometime mess and chaos of human relationship, and how we are called, all of us, in Christ and by Christ, to respond in love. He quotes from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous ‘hymn to love’, and comments on the call there to patience in love:
Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us. We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the centre and expect things to turn out our way. Then everything makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds. That is why the word of God tells us: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:31). Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.
Amoris Laetitia, 92 (emphasis added)
- What – most – makes me who I am?
- What is my calling?
Sculpture by Henry Moore, Tate Britain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris