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Ideal time to deepen our faith with God

Fr Martin Magill


Introducing a new series of reflections for the coronavirus crisis

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Digital age: good, and not so good, content can be found online

Digital age: good, and not so good, content can be found online

Digital age: good, and not so good, content can be found online

There is no scarcity of internet religious content coming from churches of all sizes and shapes. Indeed, at a recent 4 Corners Festival meeting (by the way, we are planning for our ninth festival next year, albeit a possible digital one), one of our committee talked about the "blizzard" of content that is around on social media.

He is, of course, right - there is a vast amount of it, some of it very good and some of it not so good.

In a chance conversation with a friend (physically distant from each other, of course), he used the phrase: "I am not content with some of the content."

In the same conversation, he made this pithy point "the Church is not Netflix", going on to talk about the danger of churches putting on a show and getting caught up with the quest to provide entertainment.

On the one hand, these days of restriction encourage those of us involved in church leadership to be creative and provide an ideal opportunity to try new ways of communicating the Gospel.

Yet, on the other hand, for church leaders, one of our big dangers here is hitting the rock of inter-church competitiveness.

I've heard clergy talk about hundreds of views, or even thousands of views, for some of the things they are doing online.

While this, on the surface level, may be interesting, or encouraging, there are some dangers, such as raising high expectations for the return to physical church services.

In terms of keeping and, indeed, developing faith during these days of lockdown, I believe church leaders might help people develop a daily rhythm of life if they haven't already got one, or if they have, what might give added value to it.

One of the questions all of us might ask ourselves is: "What do we need to let go from the past?"

In a phone conversation with a fellow priest, he was telling me that these days have helped him realise how frenzied his life had become before the lockdown and then he added, very clearly: "I am not going back to that."

As well as recognising unhealthy and unhelpful patterns of life we need to let go of, we might also consider how we deepen in our faith. Now is an ideal time to look for ways in which we can go deeper with God.

I found these words of Catherine of Siena, whose feast day was on Wednesday past, very apt: You (God) are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

If we take an entertainment approach to our faith, we will inevitably be disappointed, whereas the more we develop a healthy rhythm of life, the more satisfying it will be.

Eugene Peterson, in The Message, describes it beautifully: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy, or ill-fitting, on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30).

Fr Martin Magill is parish priest of St John's, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Bible readings for the week ahead:

Monday: Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday: 1 Peter 1:18-19

Wednesday: 1 John 1:5

Thursday: Psalm 88(89):2

Friday: John 14:1

Belfast Telegraph