By Canon Gerry Conroy
In the midst of the spike in numbers of covid, I found myself wondering if we have learned anything from this past year and a half. In 10 years time when this is hopefully a distant memory, will it have made any difference to us, will it have changed us in any way or contributed anything positive to the way we go about life? I suppose we could ask the same of this current preoccupation with global warming and the climate or the environment. Will it be another passing preoccupation that we seem to have, a cause of anxiety that once we get used to it, we find a way to live with it while we get on with what really interests us? Will we learn anything from this eco-crisis; will anything change in how we approach life?
There seems to be something within us that makes change difficult. It might be simply a stubbornness, or a blindness to things, but we struggle to modify our behaviour, we struggle to do things differently, to approach things differently. Young people seem better at adapting, but perhaps that is simply because they are not yet set in their ways, they are still learning their ways. That means they are also more susceptible to advertising and influences coming at them and unfortunately also more prone to anxiety over these preoccupations. Perhaps our stubbornness is to protect us from anxiety.
Maybe too that is why, after telling the disciples about his impending death, they seem to ignore it and continue speaking about what is familiar to them, what preoccupies them: who is the most important. That was familiar territory; it didn’t demand them trying to understand what Jesus was talking about when he mentioned the cross and resurrection.
However, it makes me ask what significance the cross and the resurrection has in our lives. Is it simply something that we know about, that our brain has registered, but it doesn’t really make much of an impact because we don’t know where to fit it in to the way we have already got our lives ordered? It just sits there, but doesn’t really bring about much of a change, because it would upset too many things we already regard as important or make us too anxious. To that extent, it is a bit like the upcoming conference on the environment. People are asking if it will produce anything of merit because, we are set in the way we live life and it might be too invasive of that if what is suggested is too radical.
Did the Apostles learn anything from Christ or did it take something really explosive, like the crucifixion and the resurrection to open their eyes to what he was saying? And what about us, do we just shrug off the cross like the disciples and continue with more of the same? The cross is a sign of contradiction; one of those things that doesn’t make sense and wants to challenge us on our lives. It doesn’t fit in with the logic of this world and the way we normally go about things and if we try and fit it in around everything else that is going on in our lives it is no longer a sign of contradiction and is robbed of its meaning. It asks for something more radical from us; it asks that everything else in our life is made to fit in around it. The pandemic forced us to make changes – at least for a while. Perhaps the crisis in the environment will force us to make more permanent radical changes to our lives. Christ is asking for equally radical changes in how we live our lives: He is asking us not to adapt to the world around us but to find our meaning in charity and service of one another.
Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton