By Canon Gerry Conroy
As this pandemic goes on and on interminably and seems to profit from any weakness in our defences with a resurgence, it causes in many a fear and distrust they had thought they were overcoming. It reminds me of the ancient Greek Myth of Sisyphus who was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity only for it to return to the bottom when he reached the top. So he had to begin all over again in a never ending cycle.
One modern philosopher – Albert Camus – saw in the myth the truth of human existence. He saw us as constantly frustrated by a life that is absurd and without meaning. He rejected despair as the only legitimate response in the face of such adversity and opted instead for courage. But it seems a rather bleak outlook on life, one that rejects the possibility of a true and lasting joy and settles instead for pleasure a fact which seems to have been borne out in his life. Indeed I think he has captured the spirit of the age in what he has said. A predominantly joyless existence that takes refuge in pleasure and entertainment.
Wouldn’t it be much better to opt for a joyful life filled with hope? The Gospel has something to say to us on that regard I think. It is full of affirmations of the divinity of Christ, but also of the doubt amongst the disciples about Christ’s divinity. It tells of the disciples struggling with the wind and the waves, just as thy struggled with their faith in Christ and with living up to his teaching. That doubt places them squarely amongst those who are in two minds, who can’t decide what way to go and end up living their life on the basis of doubting everything and living never far from anxiety.
Peter stepped out of the boat, but he quickly panicked and was overtaken by doubt. It is in almost in our human nature to doubt, uncertainty seems to be one of the principle foundations of modern society to the extent that if you express certainty about anything, you are looked upon with disbelief and a certain distain. So many people seem to look on our world – and themselves – with distrust and anxiety is never far behind. Perhaps their distrust and concern is born out of a frustration with life, because they have been told that nothing lasts. When Peter cried out to Christ to save him he surely believed he would and could, it was just that he panicked in the moment of terror. We mustn’t let the terror of life overtake us and force us into a panic so that we are filled with that doubt that breeds anxiety. We know God’s power to save, we believe in his love that desires to save us. We shouldn’t let go of our confidence, our certainty, just because those around us choose to build their life on a principle that nothing is certain. God’s love for us is certain, his mercy sure. That is a good basis for joy and hope in our life.
- Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton.