Monday, 19 October 2015


"A handbag!" Shrieked Lady Bracknell in the play, "The Importance of Being Ernest." Jack had just told her that, as a babe, he’d been adopted after being found in a handbag at Victoria Railway Station.

Her startled reaction only served to confirm my amazement at what women keep in their handbags. But then, I’m but a mere male; I can’t be expected to understand such feminine mysteries! Anyway, I shouldn’t feel superior. While my brethren would say my room looks like a junkyard, I would argue that to me it’s a treasure-trove. I prefer creative chaos to sterile rectitude!

So I should not have been surprised when a friend told me of her recent discovery. Avis –not her real name –had three budgerigars and a couple of cockatiels. Brilliant were the flashes of blue, green and yellow as her feathered friends flew around her room. Our phone chats were punctured by their squawks –especially loud when two or three of them perched on her head or shoulder. Clearly, Avis and her budgies were very close! They felt really at home with each other.

So much so that one day she noticed a bright yellow budgie flying into her fashionable and expensive handbag, lying open on a sideboard. What could be the attraction for her budgie? Curious Avis had to investigate. Who but she would have been so enchanted to discover her beautiful budgie had made a nest in her handbag? Yes, in her handbag! What is more, she –the budgie, not Avis -was incubating two eggs!!

What was Avis to do? The simple answer, "NOTHING!" Unthinkable for her to disturb the nesting bird. Impossible for her to use her stylish handbag until the eggs had hatched and the baby budgies had fledged.

In spite of this inconvenience Avis was overjoyed at the prospect of having a young family of budgies in her home –no matter that they would have left her quality handbag in a real mess.

That outrageous-to-all-church-cleaners passage in one of the Psalms immediately sprang to my mind. It runs, "Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God," (Psalm 84.3).
What a lovely idea –wild creatures making their homes in the House of the Lord??? Not just swallows, but ants and spiders. We have a saying about being as poor as a church mouse. The Lord welcomes all of them as His creatures. As for us clergy, we call in pest- control officers to remove these messy beasts! Could it be these favoured creatures of the Lord might see us clergy as pests to be removed?

But what’s so amazing is that the Lord, the All-Holy Lord, welcomes us sinners into His home. Instead of clearing us out, He invites us in, especially if our lives are in a mess. His mercy transforms us from being pests into becoming God’s beloved children. As far as He’s concerned we’re neither rejects, nor outcasts, even though the self-righteous may consider us unfit for their company. But not so Jesus; He seeks us out and makes us welcome as people who recognize our need for Him.

We, and so many others, have good reason to rejoice that He wants our company. Not only does He welcome us into His Church buildings, made of bricks and mortar. He even welcomes us into the intimacy of His very life, And so St. John’s letter tells us, "And we have known and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him," (1 John 4. 16).

Wonder of wonders, not only does God want us to be at home with Him, but He wants to be at home with us. That’s why He sent His Son into the world to become one of us. Now, through the Holy Spirit we become the very temple of God –His sacred abode. Eagerly St. Paul reminds the Corinthians. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Cor. 6. 19).

In us Almighty God has certainly chosen some unlikely places to make His abode –much weirder than a budgie making its nest in my friend’s handbag. As for us, the Psalmist sums up what should be our deepest longing, our most fervent prayer, "One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the day of my life," (Ps. 27. 4). He is our lasting abode; nowhere else will we find real happiness; nothing else matters!

A final question. Do we treat strangers –beggars, refugees, asylum seekers -as unwelcome pests? Or do we show them God’s hospitality–illustrated by Avis allowing her beloved, messy, budgie to make its home in her squeaky-clean handbag?

Isidore O.P.


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