Keeping the faith in a pandemic
I recently heard a comment to the effect that, "I hope Boris Johnston comes out a better person at the end of all this."
Whatever our views on Boris Johnston - and bearing in mind he is recovering from a life-threatening illness - I wonder not only about its timing, but also about its helpfulness.
It seems to me that, in some ways, it misses an important point, which is that we are not responsible for anyone else changing and becoming a "better person". The only person we can change is ourselves.
I also heard an older person say that he was not being changed by the present circumstances. I found that sad and I wonder if he is missing out on something significant.
These weeks have been for the world like no other. Please God, we never have to go through this again.
While they are traumatic, especially for those whose loved ones have died, or been seriously ill, and for those who are on the frontline, for the rest of us the experience of lockdown has the potential to be positively life-changing.
Each day in St John's parish social media, there is a video Thought for the Day at 9am, thanks to the willingness and generosity of a variety of people from various denominations.
It's been really interesting to watch and listen to the different perspectives which people of faith present.
Even though we heard during the week that the restrictions we have been living under will be extended for another three weeks, it has been fascinating to note that some contributors are starting to consider life after lockdown and what it will be like.
I've heard some of them say things like, "This experience will change us", "We can't go back to 'normal'", "I don't want to live the way I was living" and "We need to re-prioritise".
Even at this stage, with some weeks, or even months, before we return to a less-restricted life, I believe these discussions about what this new "normal" might be like are helpful.
While these few weeks have brought enormous suffering for some people, at the same time these days have not been without their blessings, not least in learning, or re-learning, new skills, be that in the kitchen, the garden, or online.
The question is: will we examine our priorities and change, or will we default to some of our unhealthy ways of behaving before our world was affected by this pandemic?
We now know that restrictions will be in place for another three weeks, giving us more time - if we are up for it - to reflect on the way we have been living life and how we might change for the better.
For example, for years, some of us have talked about the pace of our lives and the amount of travel we do to get to meetings.
As conference technology continues to improve, some of us are now seriously considering continuing some of our meetings online even after the restrictions end.
Maybe we have been struck by the enjoyment of taking time to cook properly at home and not simply to put a meal into a microwave. Is this something we might consider continuing after we get through this crisis?
These next three weeks offer time for soul-searching. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, in our encounter in prayer with the risen Jesus, we might explore what is he asking of us at this time and what we need to change to be better followers.
Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast
Some Bible readings for the week ahead:
Monday: Micah 6:8
Tuesday: Matthew 14:23
Wednesday: Galatians 5:22-23
Thursday: Romans 12:2
Friday: Lamentations 3:40