By Canon Gerry Conroy, of St Patrick’s
I wonder what we have prayed for in this period of lockdown. Probably most of us have prayed to be kept safe, for our families to be safe. We’ve probably prayed that we all come out the other side of this healthy and being able to cope financially. We may even have had to pray for someone we have lost to the illness or for family or someone we know who has lost a loved one during the lockdown. I wonder too if anyone has received any blessings during this time, if life in some way has gotten better for some people, if they have rediscovered or found something that makes their life better. If they have prayed that when the lockdown is over they will keep hold of the good things that have come into their lives, that it will not simply fritter away when everything returns to normal and they will have to return to a less happy life. Perhaps this brief pause in life has been for some an opportunity and not simply a difficulty to be overcome as quickly as possible. For all of us the danger is that fear stops us, that fear succeeds in limiting what we take from this experience in our lives and restricts us so that we can see only what is negative and painful. But then that is a challenge for all of our life.
St Patrick’s Church, Strathleven Place, Dumbarton.
The Gospel today is part of a section of the Gospel that is known as Christ’s priestly prayer. It sets out for us Christ’s offering of his life and himself to his Father and as we heard it presents his death and resurrection as his hour of glory, the culmination of what his life has been about. He is not paralysed by the fear of what he must face because he sees in it the crowning moment of his life. But he also knew that not everyone would be able to recognise it for what it was. That many would be paralysed by fear and unwilling to trust what he was doing, would be unable to see the truth and value of it. So his prayer is also for them, so that they might understand and welcome it. If they didn’t welcome it, if they didn’t recognise it, what good would it have done them, what would have been the point of it all, if no one responded to it in their life? I’m certain that it wasn’t an easy thing for his disciples to recognise the value of what Christ was doing, it wasn’t an easy thing for them to accept it, because when we see suffering or death or hardship our first reaction is to recoil from it, we don’t want even to consider that among such horror there might be some blessings as well. And there is plenty of suffering and sadness around in our world, especially just now. It is that suffering and emptiness that naturally draws us to despair rather than hope. I think that might have something to do with Christ asking elsewhere, ‘When the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’.
Faith doesn’t exist only in a bed of roses, it is present in the struggle and the suffering too. That is why after the Ascension, Our Lady and the Apostles joined in continuous prayer. It is why Christ prayed often and everywhere to his Father. We need help, we shouldn’t expect to have to do everything on our own and God will help. He will help us see the possibilities even when we can’t; that is what hope is. He will help us persevere when we are weary and exhausted; that is what faith is. He will help us not to give up when we’ve already given our everything; that is what love is.