The Twenty Percent: An African Story by Fr Michael O’Shea SMA, Mpima Seminary, Zambia

[The story so far: Abbess Bess of the simian monastery in Mpima Forest, Zambia, scored heavily over fellow simian Chief Kolbe when she declared that the sentences ‘The Word became flesh’ or that God ‘became one of us’ should be emphasized rather than that ‘God became man’.  Feminist philosopher, Phil O’Sophy, added weight to the argument by saying that the essence of creation and salvation is Love, and has nothing essentially to do with ‘gender’.  By now all the males of the monkey troop were awake, their hackles rising at what their lady folks were saying.]

Abbot Capo pulling a forelock searched his memory for something masculine-ly uplifting to say.  He bopped his wizened grey head a few times and declared, “Certainly love is central, all our efforts should be directed to becoming more loving irrespective of species, gender, inclination but, but …  As he faltered Ruby Rub jumped in, “Our tendency is to love our own kind only and even within that our own family or group.  I think we in the higher echelons of species (monkeys who never degenerated into standing on two legs, shedding tails and becoming greedy predators like the hominits) must give a stronger lead in loving others of all species.”

The Abbess concurred, she’d seen visions at times in her mystical prayer, of Isaian harmony between lamb and lion, vipers and all other creatures. “But” she continued, “how can we and all creatures move towards this situation, how can we evolve towards universal love?  If only we had precedents and models”.

Phil O’Sophy came to her aid, “Roughly 20% of creatures, especially, hominits, are reasonably well off and look out for one another, and even love one another.  The 20% are the ‘haves’, but the vast majority of creatures, the 80%, and especially hominits themselves, are deprived; they’re the ‘have nots’”.   Ada asked, “What do the ‘haves’ have?”  Phil responded: “Motor cars, brick houses, three square meals a day, coffee and cakes, jobs, education, holidays and so on.”  “And the ‘Have Nots’” asked Dizzy Dale, who had to have everything explained twice to her, “what have they not got?”  Phil with a wry smile responded, “Apart from not having the things just mentioned they’ve little or no money, no security, and no real hopes for themselves or their children”.

One of the male monks who dabbled in science, Tail Hard de Shardy, spoke up, “I’ve always been interested in stones; how hard and beautiful they are, and still they can and do change, be smoothed by water, carved by wind, and broken by fire.  True, their changing does take time, struggle and pain, but if stone can change, surely so can we.”

“You have a point,” said Capo, “in the monastery we’ve always known the need for change, for forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation; but it is hard.”

Ruby burst in addressing the Abbess with an excited, “Reverend Mater, we do have a model, Jesus! Remember the movie, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and she began to sing, “I don’t know why I love him …”  All the ladies present enjoyed the lyric  especially the words, “He’s a man, he’s just a man …”

“Good Ruby dear, you’re right” Abbess Bess beamed at her favourite supporter, “though a hominit, sorry a human, Jesus lived for love, and pronounced it the greatest of all the commandments”.

Even the males nodded and felt no desire to contradict.