Grand National Weekend was always an occasion which I looked forward to every year.
Like many households we took particular care in running a sweepstake which would have been cut out of one of the newspapers. The annual venue for the event was my grandmother’s house, with fourteen children, fifty grandchildren and over sixty great grandchildren there was plenty of completion for horses. In time I was given responsibility for organising the sweep stake which I dutifully cut out of the newspapers, rolled up the horsed names before placing them in my grandmother’s fruit bowl. Nobody who entered the house was safe, from the fruit and veg man who wondered over from the Waterside, to the milkman just landed before the race. I made the fateful decision of increasing the price of a draw from twenty pence to fifty pence and I never heard the end of it for years. Many of my family complained I was a typical priest with a basket.
Over the course of thirty odd years I managed three Grand National winners. The way I was talking you would think I was an owner, trainer or a jockey. I suppose I’m the right height for a jockey if not the weight of two or three jockeys. The first horse I remember was Grease Paint, I liked the name, I can’t remember if it ever one. But in time I managed to pick ‘Party Politics’ the year of a general election, ‘Rhyme and Reason’ which won in another year. It was always great excitement going to the last fence and the run in, if your horse was still standing and even slightly involved. The roof would have been raised in my grandmother’s house as people shouted fix when the winnings were eventually handed over to the lucky winner. In fairness I should have charged 10 per cent commission for cutting out the horse’s names but I never thought about the possibility until years later.
This year as I scanned over the names I noticed a horse call ‘Rose of the Moon.’ Judging by the price of the horse it has as much chance of winning as I do. So I picked the horse priced at 50-1, simply as my mother’s name is Rosie. For each of us there’s a power associated with a name, normally through personal experience certain names can take on a powerful significance. These names highlight people who through the course of our lives made a profound impact on who we are and who we have become. In this weekend’s gospel we listen to Martha who pleads on behalf of her dead brother Lazarus. Through her encounters with Jesus, Martha certainly believes in the power of his name. Even in the midst of death she professes her faith in Jesus as the resurrection, the Christ, the Son of God who has come into this world. Our challenge is to believe in the name of Christ, if we truly believe he has been sent by God then we should have no fear even in the face or darkness or death.