By Canon Gerry Conroy
There is an important lesson for us I think in the recent setback in our progress with dealing with the pandemic. It is that we should not abandon our hope. We have, in this modern age, become accustomed, presumptuous even, to think that progress is inevitable. The prevailing thought is that perhaps there will be the occasional setback but we will persevere and we will triumph. Things will get better. It’s inevitable because we have science and education and they open up for us endless possibilities. And that is true, but the problem is not all the possibilities that are opened up to us are good. Progress might be inevitable, but the progress might lead us to something worse, progress isn’t always to something better. Certainly not for everyone. That is the challenge that the Gospel presents us with. Progress to something better has to be progress to something better for everyone. We can’t be willing to sacrifice some people’s well-being for the sake of a particular group becoming better off. We only have to look at our world to see that the ones who are sacrificed are always the bigger group, the ones who become better off are always the smaller group. Clearly there is something wrong there.
As Christians, we too believe in progress. We believe that we are not caught up in an endless cycle of desperation. But we need to be clear exactly what kind of progress we are aiming for. Our progress is about making life better for everyone, but the contribution of science and technology and education are only one part of what is needed, and although an important part they are not the major part. The major part is laid out for us in the Gospel: it is the love we show to others, and not just to our family and friends. That is the key to a progress that is fully human.
We need to remember that we are human beings. We have faults and failings and weaknesses in abundance which can, and often have corrupted progress for malicious ends, but we are still human beings and any progress that forgets that or denies to some group of humanity the right to enjoy the same blessings as we want to enjoy is no real progress. It only serves to strengthen what is worst in us: our selfishness and greed. As Christians, our progress is towards the Kingdom of God and though it may never fully appear on earth before Christ returns, we want to build our world in its reflection. We want our world to be human, not the humanity that is broken by sin, but the humanity that is a reflection of God’s goodness and glory. And if there are setbacks, if false hopes and dreams of progress are preached to us, we will not give up our Christian hopes, we will not abandon our world to despair or anything less than the possibilities that Christ has given to us.
Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton
The pictures here and above are of the Monday Lunch Club group at St Patrick’s Hall, which operated until the lockdown restrictions came into force.