God is the lion

I am reading Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan. In the book Donovan discribes his work with the Masai people, especially concerning first evangelization- spreading the Gospel to a people who have never heard the name of Jesus and doesn’t have words for ‘faith’, ‘freedom’ or future tense in their language. Here is a little piece I want to share with you.

In a conversation with a Masai elder, the elder pointed out that the word Donovan used for faith is unsatisfactory in their language. It literally means ‘to agree with‘.

‘“To believe” like that’, the elder said, ‘was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal with his gun from a great distance. Only his eyes and his fingers took part in the act. We should find another word’. He continued: ‘for a man really to believe is like a lion going after its prey. His nose and eyes and ears pick up on the prey. His legs give him the speed to catch it. All the power of his body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck with the front paw, the blow that actually kills. And as the animal goes down the lion envelops it in his arms (Africans refer to the front legs of an animal as its arms) pulls it to itself, and makes it part of himself. This is the way a lion kills. This is the way a man believes. This is what faith is’.

Donovan’s response? Silence, and amazement: ‘Faith understood like that would explain why, when my own was gone, I ached in every fiber of my being’. But the Masai elder had not finished speaking to Donovan:

‘We did not search you out, Padri … We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You followed us away from your house into the bush, into the plains, into the steppes where our cattle are, into the hills where we take our cattle for water, into our villages, into our homes. You told us of the High God, how we must search for him, even leave our land and our people to find him. But we have not done this. We have not left our land. We have not searched for him. He has searched for us. He has searched us out and found us. All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God’.

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One Response to God is the lion

  1. Fr. Patrick Tuttle, OFM says:

    Very very cool. I am looking at a painting from Africa of the Masai as I read your blog.
    Fr.P

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