So life flows through the courses of reassuringly regular routine.
The smoothie maker burns out, and I order another one at a knock-down price on Amazon – without delay, because all of us use it every morning.
The days lengthen and the year brightens – the deep greens and browns and greys of my winter clothes start to feel wrong; but it’s still so cold. I get my box of summer dresses down from the attic, but comb eBay for a colourful cardigan at a fraction of the cost of something new.
I sit in the garden conversing back and forth with my crow-call and the crow up in the ash tree.
I eat a pomegranate.
I monitor our meals conscientiously to be sure they are heart-friendly and weight-conscious, because we are growing old.
We sit together in the evening, a fire in the woodstove, watching a riveting crime drama – Icelandic, with sub-titles.
I iron my handkerchiefs.
I take in a parcel for a neighbour.
I heat up milk in a saucepan because I like my morning coffee milky.
Last thing in the evening I boil a kettle for a hot water bottle because the nights are still cold.
All the while, underneath, like the ominous groaning of snow on the mountain before the avalanche breaks, like the hush of birds before the storm breaks, like the still dread before a heart breaks, I am aware of thousands upon thousands of refugees reduced to bare existence in makeshift shelters, refused and rejected, treated like herded cattle, turned away.
This last week in the Calais Jungle, black-uniformed French police in riot gear have tear-gassed and water-cannoned, brutally and unsparingly turned thousands clinging to small hopes and the first shoots of a new beginning, out of their homes. Beaten with truncheons, choking, eyes stinging, driven by fierce water jets, no time to pick up their small, few belongings; the settled and comfortable have waged war on the vulnerable and dispossessed.
In England, mendacious headlines have spoken self-righteously of ‘clashes with migrants’ and ‘clearing the camps’. Misleading photographs and deceptive captions have shielded our eyes from seeing and encouraged our hearts away from compassion – back to preoccupation with celebrity, with what to eat, what to wear, what to buy next.
But they – the refugees in the camps – their suffering is the crying of our consciences.
A man stands and watches the small shelter he had made from discarded pallets, sheet plastic, donated blankets – hacked and bulldozed into twisted wreckage. Tonight in this rain that is almost snow, he seeks shelter under the bare twigs of a winter tree.
But can we not see? Do we not grasp what is happening to us? Our souls become sclerotic, withered, frostbitten. Our life is struck sere to the root, we who let this happen in our midst.
Our national leaders mistake as their responsibility the guardianship of our interest, our affluence, our untouchable comfort. Thinking it the fulfillment of their duty, they have delivered us body and soul into the hands of Mammon; and you cannot serve God and Mammon.
Tonight, in Calais, not only does Christ shiver and cough in a wet sleeping bag in the mud under the winter sky, but the creeping paralysis of hell advances in our souls because of what we are doing, what we have done.
You see, when I think of the refugees in Calais – while I sit at my fireside, prepare the vegetables for supper, write my sermon for Sunday – it is as if it were not true. It is as if they did not exist. I help a little, send some money, send warm clothes and bedding; and then I put them out of my mind, because it is unbearable.
Our smiling, posturing, fist-thumping, finger-pointing political leaders, with their walls and fences, their guns and boots and riot shields, their barrel bombs dropped on smashed Syria, they have let us down, sold us out, given us to Satan.
For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?
‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment.
And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.
Now. This is happening now.