We are children of God with a variety of gifts given us for the good of all

Father Conroy celebrating the easing of lockdown to allow people to get out and about and meet their friends and family. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Canon Gerry Conroy, of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton

When the government announced the good news that officially families could come together, even in a limited way and under strict circumstances, I felt a sense of excitement that finally there was some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. This very unnatural social distancing has highlighted for me the sense of alienation which separation brings about. I can’t help but feel on this feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit bursts into that fear-filled isolation of the Apostles and set them free, a certain resonance of the joy they must have felt. However, the distancing also suggested to me a wider alienation that afflicts our world, an isolation that was already present before this covid-19 forced its social distancing amongst us. In many ways we were already living lives where a different kind of, but no less crippling, isolation afflicted us.

We hear it frequently spoken of, whether it was political or economic, the distance between the haves and the have nots, the insistence on what separates peoples and nations and individuals and all the anger and resentment and even hate that went with that. And so much of it fell on deaf ears, we didn’t really appreciate the harm it was doing. We couldn’t really communicate with others, we didn’t appreciate that communication itself is supposed to be about communion as the word suggests, instead it was more often than not about criticising and condemning and accusing. So often we weren’t interested in communion or unity, we weren’t acting out of love but out of fear all along. In one sense Covid-19 has simply pointed out to us the social distance that already exists. But to be fair it has done something else too: it has made us appreciate more the actions that can bring us together, the kindness and the love and the thoughtfulness. It has shown us we don’t want the distancing, we want the unity and the communion. We simply have to figure out what price we are willing to pay to have that social cohesion.

When the apostles were thrown out by the Holy Spirit to speak to people from whom they had been isolating themselves that first Pentecost, we heard that there were people from all nations in the world who could understand them. The message for us, is that when we are blind to God and sin dominates life, we should recognise that by the alienation from one another, by our refusal to dialogue with those who are not us, by that fear or anger that drives our behaviour rather than love and respect for others. The truth in the story of Adam and Eve and of Original Sin, is found in the sad note of the alienation, the social distancing, by which sin corrupts the joy and happiness of life. Now at Pentecost that social distancing is finally overcome with the announcing of the Good News. It is a message of re-unification and so much of what we had been living before this break of Covid-19 seemed to be emphasising differences even as we were searching for equality and unity and all the while we were enforcing differences upon ourselves in the name of justice.

As people of faith we believe that unity comes only from God; a gift of the risen Christ who comes to meet us with forgiveness and mercy. What he asks of us is to be ambassadors of forgiveness, mercy and truth, and in this way to prepare, in dialogue with others, for the unity of God’s children, for we are all children of God with a variety of gifts given to us for the good of all.

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