(this is my Belfast Telegraph Coronavirus Column that I retake weekly with my friend Fr Martin Magill... published on September 26, 2020)
We all seem to be Whingers. We have lived such a free and comfortable life that six months of restrictions due to a killer pandemic has us grumbling about everything that a government under pressure attempts to do to save lives and our livelihood.
There is nothing new in whinging. If we go back to the Old Testament story of exodus we find the Children of Israel in the wilderness whinging. God has freed them from slavery and an oppressive Pharaoh. He has miraculously rescued them through the Red Sea but soon they are grumbling to Moses about food and water.
The grumbling could be seen in another way. A lack of faith. They have watched God doing amazing things for their liberation but so quickly they have stopped trusting God and start grumbling.
There are obvious lessons for us in a Coronavirus world millenniums later. Indeed, this might the time when we learn more about God and ourselves and the Bible than we could learn in those more comfortable pre virus days.
There are very few places in the Bible where anyone is comfortable. There are people on the run or in slavery or in the wilderness or in exile or under an oppressive Roman Empire. It is in these difficult places that the people encounter God.
In the Bible it is not so much about where you are as who you are. Finding an identity and trust in God allows tough times like Covid-19 times to become an exciting adventure inside your soul to find faith, resilience, hope and vision.
Last week a friend put a message on Facebook that read “Some things break your heart but fix your vision”. That could be a theme through much of the Scriptures!
When we stop grumbling and start trusting, focus on who we are through God’s grace, Christ’s life and death and resurrection and ascension and not where we are then we might find a vision for a better day.
When we hear the whinging of the Children of Israel in the wilderness it seems that they might have settled for a merely a slightly improved slavery in Egypt rather than the milk and honey of the Promised Land.
What of us? As we have travelled through these months I have heard so many people say that we do not want to go back to the old normal. I have heard people talk about what they learned about their previous heavy work schedule, about enjoying more time with their children. Many have been pleased that the environment has had a bit of a breather. Lots of us have felt our faith growing because we have had to stop leaning on a service or mass but up our time in private devotion. Let us hold on to these lessons and move on to better days.
The comparison with the Children of Israel is interesting. They were coming out of restrictions towards liberation. We, on the other hand, are sacrificing our liberation for a period of restriction. Either way, our the honed over time understanding of God is challenged. We encounter God in a different place and in different ways. God gets reshaped in the changed circumstances.
It is time to quit the whinging. It is time to encounter God in new places. It is time to concentrate on who we are. It is time to use this virus that is breaking our hearts to fix our vision. It is time to commit to the Promised Land.