Four 10 year olds were asked by their teacher the question “What scares you most?” The first child stood up and said “werewolves”; the second child said “sharks”; the third child, called Dylan, stood up and said: “The unstoppable marching of time that is slowly guiding us all towards an inevitable death.” The fourth child asked the same question, what scares you most? answered with one word – “Dylan!”
All the same you can’t be but impressed by Dylan’s altiloquence, that teacher must be very proud!
There has been a lot of fearfulness over the past year with the pandemic. The fear of not knowing what Covid was initially, the fear of a small almost invisible virus bringing the entire world to a halt, the fear of getting it as well as the fear of misinformation and disinformation – of who to believe. We have suffered loss in many ways, we are exhausted and we are possibly wondering and maybe a little fearful of what a post Covid world will look like. We have questions about the vaccines, which to get and if there’ll be enough for everyone on the planet. It may lead you to wonder about that indiscernible light at the end of what seems to be the longest tunnel in proverbial history! However, we do not despair. We live in hope.
Ah! you may say, but hope is not a strategy! You’d be perfectly right, it’s not. However, the human capacity to hope for the best and a better future is one of the things that gets us through any time of crisis, even one caused by a pandemic. Hope does not blinker us from facing the viscissitudes and realities of life. The writer and philosopher, Martin Buber, wrote: “hope imagines the real.” Hope then, encourages us to confront difficult times with the possibility that with human ingenuity and drive, life can and will be better. Last year for example, we hoped that a vaccine would be developed soon, we didn’t know then how soon “soon” would be but our hope lay in scientists and the resources governments would place at their disposal in developing one. What would have normally taken years to develop in pre Covid times, took only months! The imagined became a reality.
For those of us who believe in this night, who believe in the risen Christ, our hope extends to that same risen Christ walking with us and guiding the ingenuity of humanity even in pandemics. Holy Week and Easter remind us of the story of our ultimate hope as human beings – to live the best lives we can on this earth in faith leading us towards God’s eternal embrace. Jesus lived, ministered, suffered, died and rose from the dead so that we may know that through him, God loves us, wishes nothing but good for us, forgives us more often than we tend to forgive others and is ready to welcome us home. Belief in the resurrection and its implications such as the Christian way of life gives the world a better way forward than the world could ever give itself. The reality of the resurrection totally defeats fear itself. In the light of this, our friend Dylan may have expressed himself differently!
It is this invitation to hope that keeps me going in the possibilities for the Church and the world of a post Covid way forward. Talk of a National Synod for the Church in Ireland to face it’s many issues is a ray of light full of possibilities. The use of language within the life of the Church needs careful deliberation and thought in reaching out to everyone if the Synod is going to forge a way forward for all of us. On a global level the possibilities of tackling a reduction of national debts and of debt forgiveness as a result of Covid spending across the world should have the same breath of vision as economic stability did with Bretton Woods and the Marshall plan after WWII as well as Germany’s part debt cancellation in order to make life bearable. This may even afford us the possibility of looking at the debt of developing countries and looking at the possibility of new economic models of interdependence as Pope Francis called for in his aptly titled work, “Let us Dream”.
Remember, hope imagines the real – by keeping the light of Christ in front of us we have nothing to fear.
Fr. Richard Gibbons, PP, Rector at Knock Shrine
Holy Saturday, April 3rd 2021