Thought for the Day - Anne Atkins
"She was staring at me as she lay on the floor, staring at the only person not abusing her. I could not save Simone on that day. I had to resist my instinct to step in."
So wrote Joe Casey, the undercover journalist who spent five weeks observing the slapping and kicking, the taunting and bullying, the dragging across the floor and drenching in cold water of patients at Winterbourne View, by some of those very people who should have been protecting and caring for them. He simply noted, watched, filmed...
and did nothing to intervene.
The opening of Mark's Gospel is similarly striking. Here is a man who can heal violent mental illness with a few words. He cures dangerous fever at a touch, leprosy with a simple command. Imagine what He could achieve, in a lifetime of three score and ten, helping perhaps ten people a day, changing a hundred thousand lives or more.
And yet before the end of the first chapter of this brief and remarkable, fast-paced book He steals out of the house in the middle of the night and disappears. When His friends eventually find Him, bursting with excitement that everyone is looking for their new mentor, He douses their enthusiasm. "We're moving on."
He hides in hills and escapes in boats to avoid the crowds. Though incapable of ignoring an individual in need, He severely charges some he saves not to blab of His power which can conquer even death. And instead of dedicating a long life to healing and helping, He presses deliberately and relentlessly on to His own early execution.
Shortly before which He defends a woman pampering Him with a wicked extravagance, worth a year's salary, dismissing responsible objections to help the poor instead. Shockingly, "You've always got them," he says.
Yesterday was the last day's journey of the shuttle Endeavour. Some years ago I heard a Question Time audience comment on the immorality of space travel in a world of starving people, and was amazed to hear everyone else on the panel agreeing. Perhaps I would have too, had I not entered my son's bedroom that morning to see him punching the air at the latest space advance. "Is it important?" I asked. His face shone. Why yes. God's love is about celebration and discovery, truth and revelation, as much as compassion and care.
He feels for every last sparrow that falls, every vulnerable patient, every starving child - of course. Just as Mr Casey did for the suffering woman in front of his eyes, but "I was there to gather the evidence that could help save others". He too had a bigger job to do, others to help and more to give. Not just water for survival, but also wine for joy. Not bread alone, but life in all its abundance.
Not a hundred thousand in His lifetime, no. But two billion followers today.
"I must press on and preach," He said, "because that is why I've come."
Available since: Fri 3 Jun 2011
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