For the third year, we gathered on Easter Sunday Morning for a Dawn Mass in the grounds of Urlaur Abbey. There was a fine gathering of people from the parish and beyond – some from Ballymote, Curry, Charlestown, Carracastle, Knock, Kiltimagh, Ballaghaderreen, Monasteraden and, I’m sure, other places. It was lovely to see so many come together to welcome “hope” on Easter Sunday.
I shared a few words there, as I had done at the Vigil Mass and, again at the later Masses of Easter Day.
I mentioned that I was moving a bookcase in my bedroom earlier in the week and that a bank card fell on the ground. I felt it wasn’t mine but I stooped to pick it up and noticed it was a card of my mother’s. It expired in 2008, a year before she herself entered Eternity. I said I looked at the card for a while and it was the standard issue – embossed lettering giving her name, the expiry date and other details, the logo of the bank and the little security tag. In effect, a piece of plastic.
It was when I turned it over its full story unfolded. On the back I saw my mother’s signature. The writing was shaky but the name and signature hers. I found myself sitting back on my bed and crying. I cried, not flowing or endless tears, but those tears that well up in the eyes, burn a little and surprise you by their arrival. Real tears nonetheless that both shocked and reassured me. Shocked insofar as they were not expected and reassured to the degree I realised yet again, the strong bond that exists within family and among loved ones. It is a bond that transcends time and bursts open graves. There was a presence in that signature.
What struck me most was remembering my mother say to me many times; “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do”. I have two brothers and I have no doubt her love for them was as strong but I suspect she may have said this to me more often since they have families of their own. It struck me, as I looked at the bank card, that she was saying to me I’d never be alone and that her love would always be there. (So too, and I know this for certain, my father’s, R.I.P.)
I wondered though how seriously I took her words to heart when she spoke them. Did I really allow them in? Did I fully believe what she was saying? Though, I’m happy enough I believed it, chances are I didn’t fully understand.
That’s the link with the Easter Story in my mind this weekend. The women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, not to meet the Risen Christ but to anoint a dead body. Time had denied them the opportunity on the Friday evening in the shadow of the approaching Sabbath so he was buried without the customary anointing. They felt badly about this and wanted to set things right. So, it was to visit the dead they went that morning, not to witness the central teaching of our Faith, that “he is risen”. The Angels told the women that he had, in fact, risen and added “as he said he would”. That’s the line that hit me very much this weekend – “as he said he would”.
They heard him say it but seemingly it hadn’t sunken into their hearts. Yes, they believed but, no more than my mother’s words, they hadn’t fully grasped that he absolutely meant what he was saying.
Jesus used words well. He would have been quite at home in the world of “Twitter” and “SMS” where a few characters tell a story that far outweighs their numbers. It’s not that Jesus was mean with his words or careful how much he said. He said what needed to be said and, more than that, he meant it.
Maybe we need to hear his words again – perhaps some of our favourite phrases from the Scripture – and allow them sink in, be real, understood and believed.
I told the people on the shore in Urlaur (and at other Easter Masses last weekend) that I’ve told them many times I am proud of them, happy to be with them, grateful to them and I wondered did they really believe me or think these were just words falling from an open mouth? I mentioned my classmate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, whom I’d seen on TV during the week. He was speaking at a presentation of awards to young people in the Archdiocese of Armagh and said that the young people were not our “future” but were, more vitally, our “present”. I had not thought of it in that way before. I said that I had tried to encourage young people over the years to be involved in parish life since they are the new generation and the builders of the church of tomorrow but, listening to Eamon, I had it wrong – they are our “now” – it is today we need them, depend on them, hope in them and call them to life in the Faith. Again, I did not want these to be words they hear but don’t believe. I’d like to think, I’m saying what I believe, despite my own confusions and uncertainties from time to time.
“Nobody will ever love you as much as I do” …. a plastic card, a shaky signature but a totally TRUE statement.
“Lord, increase our faith …..”