(Fr Martin and I share a weekly column in the Belfast Telegraph during Coronavirus. This was my script for August 29th 2020)
Martin Luther once said that every time we wash we should remember our baptism. It is a wonderful image. The water so important to that symbol of rebirth reminding us that by God’s grace, and Jesus work on the cross and resurrection, we are dead to our old lives and raised with Christ to a whole new way to live. It is a good thing to be reminded as regularly as we wash.
I have been considering the importance of such an action and remembering my baptism a lot in these past few Coronavirus weeks. How many times are we told in these strange days to wash our hands? The washing is vital for our health and the well being of society. Every time I do this act I remember that I am a follower of Jesus and what that should mean to my Covid 19 living!
On holidays over the past few weeks I have been reading some great novels. One of them is Jeanine Cummins’ best selling, and controversial book, American Dirt. A women in Acapulco hears her family being gunned down by a drug cartel as she hides in the bathroom with her 8 year old son. They then have to flee and end up as migrants escaping to the United States.
It is a pulsing read. They meet two teenage Honduran girls and team up. The teenagers are more train-tracks-wise and teach them how to jump from bridges onto the roof of trains to move north.
The first jump is adrenaline rushing and scary. A few jumps later and they do it without much thought. It is after that jump that the mother and the oldest girl realise that the jumping has become normal and therefore even more dangerous. Complacency and they are dead in rather gruesome ways. They have to consciously commit to staying vigilant.
When back in March I told my congregation that we were in a Coronavirus marathon not a sprint I had no idea the length of that marathon. When Fr Martin Magill and I agreed to this short Coronavirus Column we thought it was for a couple of months.
We are six months in. Weariness is real. As a result, the fear of us becoming blasé is our greatest danger. I met a man in Ballycastle Forest one evening who told me he listened to me on the radio. I immediately reached out and shook his hand. No!!! Stay alert!!! Blasé! If we all slack in our high level alertness the consequences are unfathomable.
Another lockdown will not only be frustrating, add to many mental health issues, put the NHS back under pressure, it is likely that it would decimate the North Irish economy. Young people who are most blasé of all, it seems to me, have no idea what that will do to their job prospects, health care and pensions.
So, we need a conscious decision to remain committed. A ritual to continually bring us back to our senses. Remembering our baptism every time we wash our hands reminds us to love our neighbours, serve for homeless, hungry and thirsty, deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Jesus in every action.