The Gaelic football season had barely begun after lockdown when one of the lads in a neighbouring club informed his senior team’s management that he had symptoms of Covid-19. All activity was halted, an upcoming match was postponed until the lad in question was tested. Thankfully the test came back negative and club activity resumed, the much-anticipated match rescheduled.
I have to say that this young man’s action and attitude impressed me. It mustn’t be easy to put your hand up and say, “Listen lads, I might have Covid”. Even though the individual in most cases carries no blame there must still be a sense of feeling responsible for the ensuing disruption. So I was impressed by this man’s honesty and his awareness that the most important thing he could do was to protect the people around him.
To my mind, this is love, this is solidarity. You know in the Bible when Jesus says, “love your neighbour as yourself” or “treat others as you would have them treat you” – well here it is in action. I’ve thought and written a lot about solidarity over these months. It is something we have all encountered in a multitude of ways. Maybe sometimes we make it too complicated. It can really be rather simple and ordinary – but no less important and wonderful for that.
Solidarity strengthens a community. It draws people together and gives us a sense that however unsure or vulnerable we may feel individually, together we can face whatever challenge lies ahead of us. Solidarity gives hope. St Ignatius talks about consolation. Consolation is a sense of peace – even in troubled times. It is a sense of moving in the right direction, towards something which is life-giving and good. It is about seeing the bigger picture, rather than just being focused on ourselves. In consolation we are drawn beyond ourselves and our own cares, drawn towards more, ultimately drawn towards God. And in being drawn into that relationship with God we often become more aware of how deeply we live in relationship with others, with the world, with the earth on which we live. So consolation is often an experience of connectedness, of wholeness.
My experience at the moment is that there is a lot of consolation about. Realistically there is also desolation. If consolation is about connectedness then desolation is about fragmentation. Rather than feelings of peace, strength and hope it brings feelings of distress, fear and despair. Rather than building up a community it undermines it, often working to divide, to set one against another, to arouse suspicion and negativity often in small, niggling, persistent ways.
For the past number of weeks many of our readings for Mass both during the week and on Sundays have been about the sowing and growing of seed – mustard, wheat, darnel have all been in there. It leaves me thinking that we all need to be mindful of what it is that we are sowing with our words and our actions, what we do and what we fail to do. What seeds are we allowing to be sown in our own hearts through what we watch, read, listen to and engage in? Are we sowing seed for a harvest of consolation or desolation? Do we nurture our relationship with God and others or do we undermine it, becoming more self-absorbed and entangled in our own concerns? Do we build the community up or fragment it?
I love the phrase in Irish, “Cábhfuilárdtriall?” It conveys not just “Where are we going?” but “What is our purpose? And if we know our destination how does that shape what we are about now?” Surely, as Christians, our “triall” is to grow in the love of God and of each other. Let’s guard against those desolations which diminish our vision and fracture our love. Instead, through small acts of solidarity, let us walk in the way of consolation.