Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
When we talk about Saint Patrick, people think “Irish.” Rightly so-- he’s been adopted into Ireland, so taken with the place that he couldn’t keep away. (That’s what my Irish friends keep telling me I should follow!) And I’m sure more than a few of you understand- the rolling hills, the gentle breeze, the promise in the sky, after the rain, of better days.
But the truth is: St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. Actually- he was an English man taken by pirates as a slave to Ireland in his youth, and made to tend the sheep. And from there, after 6 years, he swam from the sheep to a boat, where he made his way back to his parents. They made him promise to stay home.
But he didn’t. He dreamed, very clearly, that God was calling him back to Ireland-- the very ends of the earth as the Roman world saw it-- to bring the word of Christ to the heathens, as he saw it. He dreamed he heard “the voice of the Irish people...saying... ‘We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.”’ which touched his heart deeply. *
He left his parents again, going back to the land of 40 Shades of Green, to be with the people he’s adopted as his new family in Christ. He left his homeland and his parents to seek his chosen family across the channel in Éire.
Does that call to move beyond birth family sound familiar? Even scriptural, perhaps? It’s certainly not the first time: Right after being tortured, tried, hung on the cross, Jesus tells his own dear ones to find family from each other. Patrick knew his Bible-- very well, even though he repeatedly describes himself as “not a learned man”-- and would have known this call.
Perhaps it would have made it a little easier to see the people who were described by other Christians in Europe around that time as “insignifcant people.... but a pimple on the face of the earth,” ...--note-- it’s like 150 years later, in 630. But It’s relative, and signifies a cultural understanding.
Our Pádraig-- that’s the Irish for “Patrick”-- didn’t see them as such. He saw them as siblings in Christ. Woman, behold your son. Patrick, behold your people. Not only did Patrick adopt the Irish, but the Irish adopted him, too. Along with Bridget and Columba, Patrick is one of the three patron saints of the country, proudly claimed as the forefathers and foremother of Irish Christianity.
It’s clear that they to whom we are responsible as family in Christ are not discerned by nationality or race... by career path or by geographic location... by language barrier or by they whom we call “love.” We are not told to be in Christian relationship only with those who think the same as we do, or make as much money as we do. We are not told to love only the neighbors that look like us, or inhabit the same gender as us... the way we love ourselves.
Just the opposite. We are told to love all people, stretching past all that divides us... because these are our siblings, our brothers, our sisters in Christ. These around the global community... even in places looked upon as the “pimple on the face of the earth” are our Christian family. Each human is beloved by God and called a Child of God... from Hartford to Haiti, from Ellington to Ireland, from South Windsor to South Dakota.
We are called to continue to work towards the will of God, even when it means leaving behind what we know, and following our call into the world.
We are called to follow the path of Jesus and countless named and unnamed saints before us pointing us towards the hard and rewarding work of reaching towards they who make us uncomfortable-- yes, even the Irish!-- and spreading the Good News of Grace Everlasting to ALL people.
I’ll leave you this morning with the words of the pirate-slave English non-learned simple man, Patrick himself: We, believe in and adore the true sun, that is, Christ, who will never perish. Nor will they perish who do his will but they will abide forever just as Christ will abide forever. He lives with God the Father almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the ages began, and now, and for all the ages of ages. Amen.
(Confessio, http://www.confessio.ie/etexts/confessio_english#01., Para 23 & 60)
*(from Cummain’s Easter Letter, Walsh & Ó Cróinín, ed. & trans., Cummian’s Letter De controversia paschali (Toronto, 1988), pp. 72-75, lines 107-10) ...--note-- it’s like 150 years later, in 630. But It’s relative, and signifies a cultural understanding.