Thinking Anew – The safe option is not always what we need

“The lesson writ large in tomorrow’s Gospel (Mark 4: 35-41) is that we should not be afraid.” Getty Images

“The lesson writ large in tomorrow’s Gospel (Mark 4: 35-41) is that we should not be afraid.” Getty Images

 

It is spectacular that in a world population of over seven billion, each one of us is unique. It tempts one to wonder how the world can manage to stay afloat and avoid ending up in chaos.

We are all so different.

When it comes to someone being elected or appointed to high office a term that comes to mind is a “safe pair of hands”, at least that is when the person is considered not to rock the boat. And so often we are more comfortable with the familiar.

Whether or not it is a complimentary or pejorative term may well depend on our own understanding of the word and our opinion of the particular person. But when the safe pair of hands throws off that mantle and turns out to be an adventurous and prophetic leader there is a wonderful charm and excitement about what might happen.

In the present world of politics it might just turn out that Joe Biden, considered by many a “safe pair of hands”, may well turn out to be far more adventurous than people originally thought. One could look on Pope John XXIII as fitting that bill. He was a former diplomat. The elderly man was considered a caretaker pope on election but he went on to give an exciting life to the Catholic Church, indeed, his influence spread across all churches and indeed further.

Other names that come to mind are Gorbachev, and Merkel. Gorbachev was a loyal and true-blue member of the USSR Politburo and Merkel had a leadership role in the East German-controlled Free German Youth. Both were considered safe pairs of hands, who went on to show the world what imaginative and prophetic people they were.

It was exciting watching them develop and blossom in their roles and how they attempted to improve the lot of their citizens. Closer to home, Seán Lemass comes to mind, even among those who don’t support Fianna Fáil. Along with farsighted civil servant Ken Whitaker, Lemass, who had spent his career in the political shadow of Éamon de Valera, began the economic revolution which became the practical realisation of Irish nationhood.

Are churches far too tempted to go for the security of the safe pair of hands? And how often does it happen that the safe pair of hands breaks loose and goes on to be prophetic and exciting?

If ever it were needed, surely we in Ireland right now need a church leadership that has the humility and genius, the courage too, to inspire people to be impressed by the Word of God.

The new Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, has set up a task force titled “Building Hope”. Parishioners across the archdiocese have been asked to contribute their thoughts, their vision for the future of the archdiocese. It would seem Dermot Farrell is hitting the ground running. But it is vital that he and his team listen to those who feel alienated and may have critical opinions to express, something John XXIII did.

The lesson writ large in tomorrow’s Gospel (Mark 4: 35-41) is that we should not be afraid. It’s so easy to hide behind fear, to use fear and security as tools to keep us in our bubbles and stave off the prevailing winds. And that’s exactly why Jesus is critical of his disciples as they battle with the sea winds.

Jesus offers them a new and exciting alternative. And when the wind drops they are astounded, surprised and realise that this man is offering them a hope for the future that is beyond their calculations. Out on that boat they realised that they have to recalibrate.

Is there anyone at senior leadership level in the Irish Christian churches willing to say that we are in trouble?

There is a faith reserve across Irish society that goes back centuries. It hasn’t been blown away by any wind or storm. Yes, it has been damaged but if we make a genuine effort in listening and summoning God to our side we will not be left wanting.

God’s love always wins out. During the life of Jesus and in his church what’s worked best has not always been the safe option. However you choose to describe him, the man from Galilee was never a safe pair of hands. And he is God too.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.