Since the start of year I have lost count of the number of deaths which seem to have occurred among younger people. Over the last weeks and months I have been attending one wake after another. In the midst of the tragedy of death and the trauma associated with the pain of grief, the healing significance of the traditional wake cannot be underestimated.
Depending on the circumstances attending someone’s wake can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience. By choice we would probably try to avoid attending but it’s only right to show our support and concern for our family, friends and neighbours at these most difficult of times.
Personally I have always been fascinated by wakes because these are the occasions when memories are kept alive and someone’s life is celebrated. The stories which are exchanged highlight the significance and the impact that the deceased has made on those who knew and loved them.
For a person always in search of a story as I look towards the following Sunday wakes have always been a treasure trove. I’m not sure if this story which was told to me in a wake house is an urban myth but it certainly deserves to be true.
Apparently one Sunday morning an older woman was travelling home from Mass and driving up the Culmore Road she noticed the flash of a camera.
As we can know to our cost this particular part of the road, despite being two-laned has a speed restriction of 30 miles per hour. When the woman checked her speedometer she was only registering 25 miles per hour.
Feeling perplexed and feeling a little aggrieved she decided to turn back on her course and drive up the road again. This time she made sure she was only driving at 25 miles per hour and low and behold the camera flashes again.
At this stage the woman was dumb founded and after driving on home and telling her daughter the story she insisted on bringing her daughter back to Culmore Road to prove her point.
As on the two previous occasions the woman maintained a similar speed as she passed the same point on the Culmore Road and true to form the camera flashed again. By now the driver is beginning to wonder if the fault is with the car or the camera.
There was no way, according to her speedometer she was breaking the speed limit. Well the mystery was solved within the week when a summons arrived on the woman’s doormat informing her she had been charged on three counts of not wearing her seat belt whilst driving on the Culmore Road the previous Sunday morning.
I was thinking of this story on St Patrick’s morning as I drove down the Crescent Link in the direction of Strathfoyle. Only at the last minute did I notice the speed camera and nervously checking my speedometer was relieved to be below the limit.
Most of us worry about getting points on our driving licence, due in no small part to the knock on effects of driving bans and the additional costs to car insurance.
Yet I wonder do we worry more about the punishments rather than looking deeper into the reality of why we do things or the reasons we’re asked not to do certain things. If we remain at the level of external rules and laws then we can reduce our faith to a moral code resulting in a heartless ticking of the boxes as we go through the motions, thinking were doing the right thing.
Jesus asks us to believe in him, and indeed the challenge of having faith means living a relationship with God which is deeper than keeping regulations and rules.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that when the Son of Man is lifted up he will gather all people to himself. It echoes what God has done in the past when he brought healing to the Israelites in the desert.
When they were bitten by a snake and looked upon the molten image of the serpent which was raised on a standard they would be healed.
This reveals the power of God using a symbol of death to bring healing and new life. The cross was a symbol of a shameful death, an image which brought fear and dread.
When Jesus was raised up on the cross he transformed an instrument of torture and death into a sign which brings life. Through the self sacrifice which was his death, Jesus has opened the doorway to eternal life.
This gift is offered to all those who believe in him. The basis of judgement is our response to Christ. Not to believe in Christ is to prefer to live in the dark, to have faith in Jesus means living in the light.
To believe in Jesus involves more than words, we have to be obedient to his commands. Only by following Jesus’ example and witnessing to his love can we remain in the light.
To be truly dead to sin, to be truly dead to the old way of life we have to be transformed and live the new life of the Resurrection, for it is our task to make God’s kingdom a reality on earth here and now.