By Canon Gerry Conroy
There is a lot of fear and frustration in our world today, and we’re reminded of it every time we go out, every time we watch or listen to the news. To be fair, that probably isn’t new; we are not the first generation to experience a world gone crazy, and we won’t be the last. Each bit of craziness will have its own characteristics distinguishing it from previous craziness; each generation has had and will have its own situations that raise up fears and anxieties. Our particular fears and anxieties have been amplified by this pandemic, but not caused by it. We have always feared getting ill and dying, we have always feared loneliness; it’s just that in the throws of a pandemic, the reality of it is no longer a distant spectre but a much closer possibility, if not a fact.
One way round it all is to remind ourselves that we are called to live our everyday life in the light of eternity. This world with all its craziness is just a first step in that direction. We are not stuck here for ever; this is not all there is for us. I think though as soon as we tell ourselves that, there is a little niggle somewhere in the back of our mind, that says, ‘yes, but…’ Which is where the Gospel passage of the sower comes in. When the apostles asked Christ why he only speaks in parables he replied, ‘The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding’. I’m afraid that is us he is speaking about. He is referring to the ‘yes but…’ we inevitably come up with, he is saying we don’t really understand our life.
There are many who view religion as an escape from reality, perhaps we even look on it as a break from the reality of our lives, which can be very harsh at times. We look for God somewhere other than our daily lives, a quieter more peaceful place. Perhaps we do that because our lives are filled with the worries and anxieties or the fears that we want to run away from or remove from our life. But then we have to go back to reality. Perhaps we should be looking at our life differently. We should instead be asking, ‘How do we hear and see in the midst of our daily life the life-giving presence of God?’ Is the noise of living, really a distraction? Cannot the daily noise of our living be the place where we meet Christ – where we hear and see him? The parables were all about the daily life that surrounded the people! Christ wanted to teach them how to hear the voice of God in their daily life – not run away from their life as if God didn’t belong there. At the centre of our faith is the incarnation – God came into our daily lives; he didn’t lift us out of them and help us run away, he came to transform our lives. But we get frightened because there are many different things in life that do not make sense, so our initial reaction is to seek refuge from them when they become too great for us.
St Paul spoke of hope and waiting in the face of suffering. The farmer who sows his seed must also wait in hope for nature to do its work and waiting and hope is part of our faith also. We might want a more immediate response to our prayers and worries, we might want whisked away to safety, but instead we are asked to live our daily life remembering that we are directed towards eternity. That is not to say what happens in our daily life has no importance; it means that eternity has already touched each and everything we do, each and everything that happens to us. The parables are to help us recognise the eternity that is with already with us and live with joy and hope, awaiting the fulness of its coming, knowing our daily life can have a purpose and meaning.