Our gospel tonight gives us a standard domestic discussion: is it my turn to wash up, or yours, and who is cooking supper? These are lockdown questions. Yes, this is a gospel passage – set around a kitchen – yet asking rather more fundamental questions about our attention and gaze. Are we looking at Jesus, and being fed by his word? Or, are we busy in our heads and with our hands, anxious about the many tasks that have to be done before the next episode of Bake Off?
Sometimes we labour under the assumption that progress is inevitable, and things will only get better. Whatever is lost will be recouped. Others are under no such illusion. For progress is not inevitable – and not everything gets better. For many of us, it starts inside us. We get older, slower, wiser, but less quick. Our friendships weather – but not always well.
Our ancient forbears had a Latin phrase we would do well to remember: ‘salus populi, suprema lex esto’ (‘public health is the highest law, and all else follows from it’). So, the marketization of health, welfare and other forms of basic care runs enormous risks for both developed and developing countries. Healthcare, rather like education, is an inherently not-for-profit enterprise.
Gavin Francis is a GP, and his recent book Intensive Care (2021) reflects on the nature of pandemics, and how we respond. What I admired most about the book was his neat summing up of the skill that a GP needs for the role: “science with kindness”. Not enough is written about kindness, yet it is an essential core element in most of vocations, and arguably most professions.