Deeds, not words, the essence of faith

Like many other people in our community, I spend a great deal of time at present reflecting on issues that have arisen during the pandemic and associated lockdowns. I had hoped that by now that most Australians, like the rest of the world, would have been vaccinated and thereby protected from the virus.

I am appreciative of the skills of scientists, researchers and many other who have shared their knowledge, expertise and determination to discover a vaccine that will greatly assist to lessen the effects of the virus if not eradicate it altogether.

Faith groups of many traditions have been central to our resilience during the lockdowns and have gone about feeding, caring, supporting and responding to many different needs without seeking fanfare or publicity.Credit:Simon Schluter

I have welcomed courageous and strong political leadership, while being appalled at point-scoring by some. All media, including social media, have reported the challenges we face as individuals and communities but not without political bias and extravagant claims at times, too often in the form of opinion offered without substance to support it. Then there is the range of fake news and opinion that denies the importance of being vaccinated and promotes conspiracy theories, particularly from those who have no expertise or knowledge.

On the positive side of my thoughts and reflections has been the resurgence, rediscovery, re-engagement and acknowledgement by many commentators and opinion writers of the importance of community, family, relationships and the need to support those who are marginalised and struggle with life. Mental health issues, disability, loneliness and isolation, lack of income and connections are now surfacing as key elements of defining what it means to be human in our contemporary society. I have been encouraged by the many positive stories of resilience and hope.

Compassion, healing, restoration, justice, embracing love and concern for all are hallmarks of the Christian faith, were central to the ministry of Jesus and continue in the lives of many faithful people in their local church communities. I know it may be a surprise to some that faith groups of many traditions, not only Christian, have been central to our resilience during the lockdowns and have gone about feeding, caring, supporting and responding to many different needs without seeking fanfare or publicity. No doubt there are people with no religious faith doing likewise. These activities reflect an understanding of what it means to be human and to live in community.

During this year the Christian community reads from the Gospel of Mark. His is the shortest of the gospels and speaks of wisdom and truth. Crowds flock to hear him speak of compassion, healing, feeding love and sacrifice. Mark affirms the true essence of Christian faith is not a set of beliefs but living the teachings of Jesus that enable all humanity to live enriching, faithful and fulfilling lives.

Let’s hope that as we rediscover the importance of community and relationships, we do not go back to old ways losing sight of the richness of faith for our lives, but rather continue to question how we may as community ensure the values of a common shared humanity will be uttermost in our minds and actions. May the stories that have enriched our lives in assisting those in need during the pandemic help us to appreciate and continue to put others before self in the days ahead.

Ray Cleary is an Anglican priest and former CEO of Anglicare.

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