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Heaven-sent hints offer hope of a better world emerging from this hell on earth

While no one is saying God is behind Covid, He may have had a hand in its upsides, writes Johnny Duhan

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Will we see a more positive world after all this?

Will we see a more positive world after all this?

Will we see a more positive world after all this?

After the first lockdown of religious services due to Covid-19, I was all at sea as an early morning communicant - until I discovered an online mass service at St Thomas More Church in north London's Swiss Cottage, close to a neighbourhood in Hampstead where I once shared a bedsit in the late 1960s with fellow Granny's Intention, John Ryan.

I didn't gravitate back there out of any sense of nostalgia, but only because it was one of the few churches that offered a 7am service online.

And I was lucky, as the parish priest there, Father Stephan, turned out to be as fine a minister as some of the Dominicans at St Mary's in the Claddagh, Galway, who served me well before the pandemic.

So impressed was I by Fr Stephan's brief homilies after gospel and scriptural readings, I don't think I missed one of his weekday services right up to Christmas week, when I took a break from early rising for the holiday. When I tried to resume attendance at his early masses in the New Year, I was disappointed to find that the church's streaming service had been discontinued.

Though I found alternative early masses elsewhere, I missed Fr Stephan's thoughtful homilies, so I contacted the church's parish secretary and learned that the reason for the cessation of their early mass was because Fr Stephan had contracted Covid and was recuperating at home.

On the day I learned this, I recalled a stark homily Fr Stephan had given back in the autumn dealing with Christ's healing of 10 lepers from Luke's Gospel, during which Fr Stephan alluded to Covid-19 as "another such plague" - making the point that, while he was relieved that no suggestion had emerged during the epidemic that God might somehow be behind the crisis, he did offer a stark suggestion (which surprised me at the time) that "of course God knows everything that goes on in our world, including this wretched pandemic".

For days after he said this, I found myself reflecting on the implications of what he may have meant and couldn't stop the question entering my head: If God is aware of the crisis, why isn't He doing something to end it?

No answer, of course, was forthcoming from the heavens - but I did find hints of heavenly communication in the clearer skies brought about by lowering carbon emissions on highways, skyways and ocean lanes, which offered part of a solution to the world's pollution problems. Since then, the ongoing decreasing levels of poison in our atmosphere due to the reduction of unnecessary travel alone has resulted in many countries reducing their carbon footprint to levels that wouldn't have been thought possible a few years ago.

Among other positive changes that have been brought about by the global pandemic, the most seismic change has undoubtedly been the demand that it has placed on world governments to co-operate in finding a way back to "normal" through the development of the vaccines that are now being distributed worldwide. Even the distribution methods that came into force are beginning to teach new lessons in co-operation.

This was brought home to me recently when a member of Boris Johnson's government claimed that, as a sovereign state now divorced from Europe, the UK has every right to put its citizens at the top of the queue when it came to availing of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Oxford, despite AstraZeneca's contractual obligations to the EU.

The newscaster interviewing the Conservative MP was quick off the mark in reminding him that no isolated country is going to get out of this crisis unless we all get out of it together.

The UK can't be blamed for trying to prioritise its citizenry with protection developed by their own scientists in their own labs - but the scale and complexity of this epidemic means that ongoing co-operation between nations is the only way forward for a global community. Never before in history have we been so inextricably linked and dependent on how we deal, not only with this catastrophe, but others like it that are coming down the track.

Maybe the very trajectory of such necessary co-operation in itself is a pointer that the new order that is being forced upon us is the only way ahead anyway, with so many other global problems confronting the world in our time.

After his first-hand experience of confronting the virus head-on, I hope that when Fr Stephan is well enough to resume his early mass he might have something enlightening to add to his proposition that God knows everything that is going on in our world.

Knowing his form, I can imagine he might catalogue other positive changes that have come about in the grim face of the pandemic, and I won't be surprised if he attributes credit for a more revitalised world to its benevolent Creator.

© John Duhan Johnnyduhan.com

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