Monday, February 27, 2012

St David's Day 2012

Icon of St David of Wales

1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
Mark 4:26-29
Psalm 16:5-11 or
Psalm 96:1-7

March 1st is the commemoration of St David, Patron Saint of Wales, who lived in the second half of the sixth century, and died around 601 AD. Relatively little is known about him, except that he was Welsh, a missionary bishop, and instrumental in founding a dozen monasteries.

The Gospel appointed for his feast day is remarkably short and contains this important sentence: "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how". The image is a very fitting for the commemoration of St David since, given the unsettled nature of his times, he must have planted the seed of the Gospel in precisely this spirit, faithfully leaving later generations -- perhaps as many as five centuries on, which is when his biography was first written -- to "go in with the sickle, because the harvest has come".

Legend paints David as rather austere, demanding a great deal of himself as well as others. If so, the lesson from Thessalonians is appropriate too. David could say with Paul: "just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.". There is a valuable lesson here. The cult of marketing encourages us to look for a speedy response to the initiatives we undertake. In business and politics, for example, we think it essential to know that people actually want what we have to offer. But the same approach in matters of faith or education brings the wrong influences to bear. What is attractive and acceptable overshadows what is true and important, and sometimes excludes it altogether. In sharp contrast, David represents a view from which the missionary task is just to sow the seed. Because it is the Gospel of God, we can have complete faith that the seeds we plant will sprout and grow, but the time scale, it is essential to see, is God's, not ours.

To believe this is wonderfully liberating. It relieves us of all sorts of stressful pressures. Nor is there any reason to dismiss this as escapism borne of wishful thinking. What other figure from medieval Wales is being commemorated around the world fourteen centuries on?

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