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The Story of Old Ben, the Bear

There is a story in the Gospel according to St Luke 2: 41f of the boy Jesus in the temple. He is 12 years old and had journeyed with his parents for the Passover festival in Jerusalem.

When they return after the festival the parents realise that the boy Jesus was not in the company of family and friends that were journeying home together. They go looking for him and find him in the temple with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. He seems to be caught up in the excitement of a new learning experience that the journey has exposed him to. And when his parents express their concern he says to them, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ They may have been impressed with their son, but at that moment it was ‘home James for him’.

I imagine though that in his experience of Jerusalem and the temple, something deeply emotional and spiritual must have opened up to him. Perhaps an awareness of the nature of God that would further form his development as a young man.

I wish to connect this story to another story, The story of Old Ben, the bear and Ike McCaslin, who is also 12 years old, from Go Down Moses by Ian Faulkner (1942). I present the story in a video clip that follows, then a short audio reflection. Notice some key words in the story as you hear it: new birth, communion, dimensionless, I have to see him, look at him, risk everything and more.

Meditation on the Bear

Lord are you still looking at me with delight,

beholding me, holding my whole being

with all its possibilities

or have you

done the looking

and must I

now look at you.

 And in order to see you

will I have to give up my security,

my human compass of direction

and risk everything,

in an alien forest.

Do I have to give up all signs of civilization,

everything I know,

– what others taught me about you

And step deeper into the forest

of my unknowing.

Then will your footprint fill with water



appear –

in all your beauty

and love for me Lord

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