It is from ourselves we need saving …
By Canon Gerry Conroy
Even as we emerge from this pandemic, fear is still present, there is uncertainty, and so confusion about the best way forward is what dominates the public debate even though governments seek to give the impression they know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. I suppose that is understandable since we are dealing with something new and science hasn’t got a handle on it yet. But what disturbs me is that this fear and uncertainty is giving rise to a kind of panic which is often expressed in language that seems to be more argument than discussion, more recrimination and insults than anything else. As usual we are looking for certainty and finding none, and it fills us with fear and often with the ugly behaviour that goes with it.
In fact when you take a look at our world it is the same everywhere and it is not linked solely to the pandemic. The recent ugliness and violence that took place in America was met by many with further violence and injustice. It seems to lie simmering just under the surface waiting for an excuse to burst forth. What can we conclude but that our world is broken and that violence and anger reach deep into our soul. Lost is the word that springs to mind. A word borrowed from the Gospel today. We are lost in the fear and the violence and the hate and it seems there is no escaping it. Society offers no certainty, no Truth, there is no solid ground offered by authority, so what should we expect.
In the midst of all of this violence and fear, you occasionally hear talk of the answer being in respect for human dignity. But we cannot even agree on what constitutes human dignity any more. Dignity has become the rights of the individual to decide for him/herself what constitutes their dignity and if that is not respected then they have been wronged and too many are ready to use violence to get what they want because hate has taken up residence in the heart of man and it will search out some object to which to fix itself, whether it is race, or religion or politics and anger or fear is as good a catalyst for this violence as any. If our world doesn’t make us realise that we are lost, then we are truly lost. If we do not recognise that it is from ourselves we need saving, then the horrors and the fear and panic will continue. We have reached a place in history where we can no longer find agreement when we look to ourselves, because we have no common ground on which to stand, no truth to unite us. We are left only with a desire for a power that will gives us the possibility to get what we want but it leaves in fear, so we condemn what we disagree with.
St John said that God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it. We who believe have a solid ground on which to dialogue with others, on which to build something better. We have a reason not to fear but to hope. We have an example in the love that God has shown us, in the love that is the dialogue of the Trinity in whose image we have been made. If we look at ourselves, what do we see? Do we see that fear, do we see the anger and the violence seething within us, do we see envy and resentment, or do we see the love that should be there because we were made in love and in order to love. God has revealed himself to us as a God of mercy and compassion, as a God of love, as Father, Son and Spirit, so that when we are lost and can not recognise ourselves, we can look to him and remember who we are.
- Canon Gerry Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s Church, Dumbarton.