By Canon Gerry Conroy
In this pandemic, I have been struck by the number of conspiracy theories that are out there first about the pandemic itself and now the vaccine. Some people won’t accept that the government or someone isn’t out to get them and control their life. Some of these people might be having a laugh, but when we have been living in the darkness of this pandemic for so long, with all the constraints that it has placed upon us, something strange is going to enter people’s heads and raise questions and doubts, and a tinge of paranoia even if only momentarily.
When John the Baptist said to the disciples of the Pharisees that there stood among them unknown to them the Messiah. I asked myself why was he unknown to them? Was it because they had never met him or was it something about them that would prevent them from recognising him. As Christ’s story unfolds, and opposition to him from the Pharisees grows, it becomes clear that the issue is that there is something going on in their lives that will make it practically impossible for them to recognise him as the Christ. John has already introduced that theme to us by talking about the light and he will come back again and again to the theme of light and darkness. You either live in the light or the darkness, you can either see the truth or you don’t.
Recognising Jesus as the Christ depends on certain pre-conditions; it depends on how you approach life. You can’t grow anything in a sterile environment and in the same way you can’t find faith if there isn’t fertile soil in which it can grow. If our life is dominated by that darkness that comes with suffering and the tiredness of constant struggle without any sign of light, then faith will struggle.
The Prophet promised that God will cause integrity and praise to sprout in our lives. These things are the normal response to having good things in our life. The Light that John spoke of, the hope of living in that light, the promise that faith makes to us, holding on to these is what overcomes the paranoia and helps us to live with integrity and thanksgiving. Christ has brought that hope to us by his death and resurrection. In dark times, he makes it easier for us to trust in the light and so to live with integrity and thanksgiving.
The time of Advent is a time to recover our hope, to let the light shine clearly on our lives so that we don’t fall back into the darkness of that despair and doubt that leads to a paranoia and distrust that destroys faith and ruins life. We are called to live in light, to live in joyful hope and trust of God’s love and mercy and of his power to give us life. That is the future we look forward to.
- Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton. The times of Mass for Christmas are: Vigil 5.30pm; Midnight Mass. Christmas Day: 10.00am; 12noon.