It is hard to believe that we are beginning the last week of February; that half term is nearly over, and that the warned-of announcement as to the roadmap out of lockdown is tomorrow. Such has been the strange focus of this restricted time, as much upon the progress of the vaccination programme, as upon the progress of the disease, that we find ourselves in the midst of a mix of anxious wait-and-see, with an optimistic, maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming a little brighter.
We wait, as with the botanists at Cambridge Botanical Gardens for the opening of the Moonflower: the amazing cactus that clings to another plant, growing on it but not parasitic upon it, with a massive flower that lasts just twelve hours. Can this really be the first time such a flower has opened in Britain? The patience of the waiter is strengthened with the expectation that something wonderful is to occur, as in this case of the Moonflower, as too with the safe landing of a probe upon the surface of Mars. This patience is mirrored in the positive outlook of those who, even in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has claimed many lives, can counter weariness and sadness with the virtue of hope.
Hope suits this day every year. It is the first Sunday of Lent and we read of Christ winning through his testing time in the wilderness. Not this year the full description of the temptations from Matthew or Luke; in 2021 we read from Mark and note that his terse account, whilst lacking detail, is incisive and energising. We feel the power of the Spirit’s direction, and the confidence that Mark injects into his description of what is happening.
Historical parallels are often sought in times of grief and challenge in the global events that so affect our lives; especially as we see the outcomes unevenly shared by the nations according to wealth and climate; resources and the willingness or otherwise to share. The news that we have been waiting for, that the richer countries of the world are to release significant numbers of vaccines to those less well-off is to be welcomed, for it is hard to rejoice too heartily at the successful progress of our own programme, if in so doing we once more underline an attitude of, “first we shall protect ourselves.”
So, a week has just ended that has a mix of news quite as varied and emotive as ever: from the opening of a flower, to the landing of a probe upon another planet; from an act of sharing to the promotion of hope. What will this week bring? Almost certainly it will, through mistakes, tragedy, success and the constant testing of humanity between good and evil, reveal the amazing capacity that our race possesses to bear with our frailty, and constantly discover and rediscover ways of emerging hopeful even in the face of great difficulty. For the Christian, knowing that our Lord bears all of this together with us is of immense comfort and energises our prayers.