By Laura Ann Phillips
When Punch roared, you heard it.
Across the Savannah, past the Oval, through the mangrove toward the sea. Our dogs froze at the sound, sniffing the air, instinct convicting that something horribly superior, by Nature’s laws, made it.
You’d never know, as his roar glanced along our wooden walls and echoed through the trees, that Punch lived in a cage.
The zoo, in fact.
Still, in his cage, he was what he was. And the surrounding hills and plains heard it.
This week, on April 25, we celebrate the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist. Maybe that’s why I remembered Punch; the symbol of St Mark is a winged lion.
A lion with wings. You could feel the power throbbing in that.
As there is a power pulsing through Mark’s gospel.
Scholars believe the symbol is a reference to St John the Baptist, who is featured heavily in this gospel and whose preaching and character was very much like that of a roaring lion.
You couldn’t not hear what the Baptist was saying; it cut too deep.
It cut Herod – “that fox,” Jesus called him (Lk 13:32). The Baptist perplexed even that street-smart, adulterous, power-hungry opportunist. “And, yet,” we’re told about Herod, “he liked to listen to him.” (Mk 6:20).
God’s hunter in a camel-hair coat, targeting his prey. Offering life and freedom to one dying in his gilded prison of sin.
Who heard that roar, was mesmerised by it, but couldn’t follow. His cage held him, firm and sweet.
Truth is seldom easy to pinpoint. It seems simple enough: this is so, this isn’t. This is right, this is wrong.
The winged-lion symbol also indicates that, as believers, we’re supposed to have the Baptist’s leonine qualities, too: commitment to the truth, fearlessness in speaking it, not cowed by how you might be perceived.
Or safe, as the Baptist likely knew, long before the executioner entered his cell.
But, truth can’t be confined; much like a lion with wings. The cage can’t contain the roar.
Even if the cage is safety, or popularity.
“Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)
For some, the news that the Catholic Church supports the move to decriminalise sodomy in Trinidad and Tobago was most unwelcome.
“Buggery is a serious moral offence, but it should not put someone in prison for 25 years,” posited Archbishop Jason Gordon in his April 13 statement.
Sodomy isn’t right, just not a crime, the Church says. It’s important to see the difference.
Is there a difference? Isn’t that just splitting hairs? What about the doors – no gates! – this legislation will open up if it’s passed?
Well, said the Archbishop’s statement: “We need to deal with them separately.”
Truth isn’t always so simple – to find or to speak. But, it is absolutely worth the search, worth the uneasy discussion.