I was celebrating a wedding on Friday and because the guests had travelled from far and wide I had to talk very slowly due to the absence of subtitles.
People had travelled from Australia, England, and Scotland, even as far away as the Waterside. Despite the language barriers the day turned out to be a great celebration. To help some of the guests to cope with the local lingo well known Derry expressions had been printed on the inside of the menu along with their English translations. Beginning with ‘what’s the craic hi?’ Generally understood as ‘hello, what’s happening?’ Then we have the more precise greeting ‘Bout ye’ meaning ‘hello, how are you today?’ There’s the expression I often say to my Indian colleague Father Joseph when he doesn’t quite understand what’s happening and I have to say ‘catch yourself on, hi.’ In fairness learning the English language has been of no benefit to Father Joseph in preparation for coming to Derry.
When arrangements have been made regarding Masses and he asks is everything is alright he just looks at me blankly when I say ‘dead on.’ I have to explain it means everything is great, thank you. You can only imagine the look on Father Joseph’s face when I said to him one day after disagreeing with him ‘do you think I came up the Foyle in a bubble.’ The literal translation being, I’m not as naïve as you think. Growing up we had to get used to all sorts of expressions and one of my most hated was the saying ‘clean food never fattened the pig.’ I have to confess as a child I was a puke and even today I’m not much better. I couldn’t cope if someone drank out of the same bottle or cup. As for someone daring to eat from my dinner plate, I would have to be worked with. For some reason I was always conscious of germs or to be more accurate, other people’s germs. It didn’t matter if people had to eat or drink after me, my germs were alright.
One of the greatest sources of comfort stems from the basic truth God is not a puke. We believe in a God who is not afraid to become involved in the messy side of life, who is often found in the gutter trying to help us to raise our lives above the chaos. Often it’s only when we reach rock bottom that we begin to recognise and understand our need for God. Thankfully the mystery of the Incarnation, the reality that God became one of us, should be a reassurance that God can be found in the turmoil of everyday life. Whether it is Australia, England, India or Derry, every land, language and people are precious in the sight of God. In the healing of the blind man Jesus uses clay and his own spittle to form a paste which acts an ointment bringing new sight. We shouldn’t shy away from the ordinary circumstances in life where God can be found. Nor should we discount or limit God’s presence based on narrow expectations, for Jesus dares to reveal God through the dust of daily life.