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Covid 19, lockdown, and all that is associated with this part of our life has been described in many ways, especially by a news hungry media. Often the news is being manufactured to fit with a particular theme, and review upon review is taking place. One article that caught my attention was entitled ‘The Challenges of Lockdown’. I don’t think that there is anybody that hasn’t been affected in some way by what has been happening, so it was probably quite an easy piece of journalism because they could write about anything and it would be relevant.
However, reading through the article there didn’t appear to be any mention, or even consideration, towards how the current situation might have been a challenge to people’s faith. In the secularist world in which we live, it is very common for the issue of faith to be pushed aside. Sometimes it is due to a fear of upsetting one group or another, at other times it can be an unwillingness to engage in dialogue, it may be just a lack of awareness or it could be a conscious decision that, to the author (and by association the reader), faith doesn’t matter. And because of this, it becomes an assumption that faith isn’t important.
So if faith is a challenge in general to large parts of society, what does this mean to me on an individual level. Fortunately we have a lot of free choice about faith in the situation in which we live, unlike so many in our world, so why is it that I should feel that there are challenges to my faith?
One of the key aspects about our faith is that we have the free will and choice of what we believe and practice, and maybe if I feel challenged about my faith, this is the point where I need to think about what is it that makes me feel challenged. Where to start though?
As I have said before a good place to explore the core ethos of our faith is through the Creed. The prayer which we recite at Sunday Mass and on other important occasions tells us everything that we need to know. But perhaps more importantly, is how we feel about our personal relationship with God. Do I feel I have an intimate Father/child link with God in my life?
Often challenges are thought of as some kind of physical barrier, or a conflict. One common one that we might hear about, is not having enough time to give a bit to God. There are so many competing draws on our time. This increases when we have commitments to others, spouse, children, parents etc.. it is amazing how much, in ‘normal times’, sport is played on a Sunday – the amount of hours I’ve spent in the past on the touch line of numerous rugby pitches must be enormous. And on top of that how much time is required for going to work, or meeting up with friends, doing the shopping, the list is endless it seems.
Another challenge that I have heard quoted in recent weeks is the fact that “I couldn’t go to Sunday Mass.” For some, because they couldn’t have their hour in church on a Sunday, it was a real challenge to their faith? It was expressed as if not being at Mass once a week meant that the challenge to what they believed, and subsequently hopefully lived, was destroying their faith. Even as the opportunity of returning to Mass begins to materialise some are still seeing in the changes the chance to see it as a challenge.
I overhead someone say, “Oh I’m dying to get the proper Mass back!” I held my tongue, and although I know it was just an expression, I wanted to respond that in many places, Christians literally are dying, because of their desire and love to attend Mass.
It strikes me that we should be grateful and give God thanks that we have the opportunity to so easily be part of the Eucharistic celebration, either in person or virtually. If our faith truly draws us towards the gift that God freely makes available, then I should be both grateful and give the time for such an honour.
Perhaps as I reflect this week, I can remember to give thanks for this gift, and pray for those who don’t have the luxury afforded to me.
Deacon Ian Black