Hope in the risen Christ

Lent has left its mark. I discovered the painful lesson this year of making sure you think a commitment the full way through before making any promises.

Lent has left its mark. I discovered the painful lesson this year of making sure you think a commitment the full way through before making any promises.

Last year I was off Facebook, in previous years I have abstained from television, computer games, alcohol and meat. This year looking for a new challenge I thought it would be good to sacrifice bread and dairy products. Unfortunately I didn’t quite comprehend the far reaching consequences of such a decision. For example attending a wake house became more complicated. I was any budding Mrs Doyle’s nightmare. Despite being tortured in wake houses with offers of tea or coffee and the usual cry ‘go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, you will!’ I had to reply ‘I will not’.

Wake houses are a unique experience when it comes to tea and sandwiches. Amongst the older generation the wake house would have been known as the corpse house and as could only could happen in Derry a woman once said to a colleague ‘the corpse’s brother wants to know do you like a cup of tea?’

The sacrifices we offer up during Lent are experienced as mini deaths, when we deny ourselves of something we enjoy or appreciate. We try to strip back some part of our lives through self-denial as a gesture of penance and prayer. For six weeks we make a greater effort to go beyond our own needs as we try to make changes which open our hearts to God and to one another. In this way we prepare to celebrate Easter as a festival of great joy when we give thanks for all Jesus has achieved through his death and resurrection. Through our sacrifices we die a little to ourselves, we try to cast off the old ways of selflessness and greed. Easter is about new life and the joy which springs from the reality that Christ has conquered death and shown us the way to the Father. Yet all of us have recently been touched by the shadow of death. None of us have been left untouched by the grief and sorrow experienced by the families of those who lost their lives in Buncrana. All of us who have experienced death, known its pain.

For those of us who have bereavement in this last year, or are holding vigil with a loved one who is dying, where can hope be found during these dark and uncertain days. The American Christian writer Mark Sandlin explains how in Germany Good Friday is known as Sorrowful Friday. Many people through the world have endured many sorrowful Fridays as they struggled with their pain, hurt and lost in the face of sickness and death. Maybe more troubling is the aftermath of their trauma when they’re confronted by the silence of Holy Saturday, left feeling alone, abandoned and helpless. The disciples never expected the resurrection, the empty tomb only added to their turmoil. It’s their experience of the Risen Christ which transforms their hearts and renews their hope. Easter reminds all people how Jesus through the power of his love can roll away the stones which entrap us in our tombs. In freely laying down his life Jesus has conquered death, so if we die united with Christ we shall also rise with him, this is our hope.