By Canon Gerry Conroy, of St Patrick’s Church
Home is an important reality to us as human beings, but in these days of imposed social isolation there is something lacking for many families in their homes and that is quite simply the visits of family to one another.
I am sure everyone feels the pain of social distancing and we are all looking forward to the day when we can greet and hug again those members of our families and friends from whom we have been forced to keep at a distance. It has brought home to us just how important that physical contact is, it reinforces the reality that home and family and friendship are more than just an idea in our heads or a feeling in our hearts.
These are not things we can keep closed up in ourselves, as if they were purely a personal thing and not something we need to share. Our family traditions, the rites particular to each family, that sense of place that a warm home gives, these are an important part of who we are; we need to be able to express the love we feel, the communion we have with one another, otherwise, we ourselves are diminished.
That is true of our faith and of our religion as well. The internet is great, this live streaming of services has been a good thing in these circumstances, but we all know it is lacking. It is lacking our physical expression of our faith because we are body and soul and though our soul might be present, our bodies are not and we feel the difference within us. Belonging isn’t simply an idea, we are reminded of that in the enforced distancing; we need a physical presence, we need to be fully engaged.
St Patrick’s Church in Strathleven Place, Dumbarton. Picture by Linda Spier
In the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel a small part of which we heard today, a recurring theme is that of the place where we belong, of our home. The chapter begins and ends by telling us not to be anxious or worried because there is a place for us. There is something of all of that in the Gospel today too, an important message for us to consider when Christ speaks to us of the Advocate dwelling in us and God dwelling in us. Home for us is the place where we belong, the place where we are free to be ourselves, to be safe, to be at peace. The Gospel speaks to us about where we belong, where we are safe and free to be ourselves. It is the place of our family – the place where we are in communion with them. The Gospel is telling us that our home is in our communion with God, our family is that of the children of God.
But this faith of ours – our Religion – is not just an idea inside us as individuals, faith is not something that simply nourishes me in my private life. Community isn’t just a loose amalgam of people; we share a common purpose, a common inspiration, there is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one Spirit given to us all, and as we long for an end to social distancing, so the unity we share in God craves something more than being stored in our hearts or minds. It too needs a real communion of body and soul with others. Love isn’t just an idea or words, love is action or it is nothing and for it to be action it needs other people to whom we can give ourselves. God did not sit in heaven talking about love, he showed us his love in Christ, he showed us that love must be lived with others, with real people. Faith and hope and love aren’t lived in a vacuum; they are lived with others in the real world. That is where our faith must be lived.