By Canon Gerry Conroy

Though it may seem strange to say, one of the things I have learned from this whole covid experience is how wonderfully complex and amazing the human body is. All this talk of the body sending a first wave of Immune cells to fight infection and signalling back to the brain the nature of the infection so that it can send a second more targeted wave of antibodies and all this without us even being aware the brain is doing all this. The body is a marvellous thing – when it is working well.

So much is going on we are not aware of and take for granted. I suppose that it is the same for so much in the universe, we are constantly discovering new marvels, growing in understanding of the intricacies of nature that can pass us by unnoticed and unappreciated. The more we understand, the more we can appreciate why things happen the way they do.

I’m not sure, however, that it is the same when it comes to life and to faith. There are certain things that I think we will always struggle to make sense of and see how they fit in with the whole of reality in a way that makes sense to us. One of the challenging things I find about our faith is stated in that second reading where it says, ‘Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering’. It puts the cross at the heart of Christ’s life as something that was necessary for him to undergo, but it also puts the cross at the heart of our lives, because as Christ said, wherever he is, his servant will be there too. No matter how much human beings may come to know, I suspect that will always be something we will struggle to understand and accept. The Cross may well be to do with the relation that exists between love and obedience, but that it is only attainable in this life through suffering will always be a sore point.

There is in love something of a giving of oneself to another that involves sacrificing something of oneself. That comes out clearly in being part of a family. It is not surprising that in our society which seeks at just about any cost to avoid suffering and inconvenience, many reject being a parent because of the sacrifice to themselves it would entail. There is a subjecting oneself to another, a submitting of one’s life to another in obedience to their continuing existence. Something that the Christian tradition can hold up as an example of the purest idealistic love, but also one that we humans can so easily subvert into something cruel and inhuman.

It was on the emptiness of the cross that Christ emptied himself in obedience to the will of the Father, undoing, if you will, the disobedience of Adam and Eve and all the dis-obediences of our lives, when we choose our own will, our own way, rather than the will of God, when we choose ourselves over practical love. It was on the Cross that Christ  chose a pure love that requires a complete emptying of oneself, a complete giving of oneself, a love that in all honesty I think few of us ever really achieve, even though it is what we are searching and yearning for because it is there we sense we will find the fulfilment of our humanity. Perhaps it is only in God that we will find it, only in the darkness of faith that is willing to be emptied of all it holds onto that we will know such love. Understanding is a wonderfully powerful thing. Faith, hope and love on the other hand are wonderfully paradoxically fulfilling in a completely different way, a way that requires us emptying ourselves and letting God be God for us.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton

Leave a Reply