The Grand National crept up on me this year, so much so it was Friday before I managed to look at the field of runners to think of which horses I could pick for my colleagues.
Fr Canny would like a steady runner, a horse with plenty of experience which wouldn’t get too excited approaching the final fence. For Fr Joseph it would have to be Shut-the-front-door because he’s always complaining about the cold. Fr Roland’s would have to be Druid’s Nephew because he’s very interested in the New Age. Amid all the excitement I forgot I had organised a christening for the same time as the Grand National. When the parents texted I joked about changing the time and within seconds the time was changed - they even gave me a tip for the race. Their eldest child is called Oscar so I was advised to put my money on Oscar Time.
There was only one problem when I arrived at the parochial house for the christening I discovered I had another christening at 4pm, so I was going to miss the race after all. I phoned my father to ask if he could place a bet for but unfortunately he was out walking the dog and with only half an hour to the beginning of the race it was touch and go whether he would be back in time. My money would have been on the dog making it back on time, I wasn’t so sure about my father. So I phoned my best friend and asked him to place a bet as well. If I was lucky and the horse won I would have two bets ups. If the horse was beaten then hopefully my father was too slow in his old age to have made it to the bookies in time. As far as I know the horse is still running and I have successfully avoided my father in case I owe him money.
Life can be like a steeple chase and when confronted with fences we often stumble and fall. The Apostles were no different. They had mostly failed to understand what Jesus preached regarding the Kingdom of God. Yet these are the people Jesus gathered around his table, including Judas who would betray him, Peter who would deny him, Thomas who would doubt him and the other Apostles who would run away. Despite their failures, Jesus entrusts to this new community the task of building up the Kingdom of God. None of us is perfect; we are all sinners in need of forgiveness and healing. We have all failed in the past and will in all probability fail in the future. Yet Jesus invites us as we are, broken and frail to celebrate the sacrament of his love. Jesus gathers all his brothers and sisters around the one table to unite us to the mystery of his death and resurrection. The Eucharist allows Jesus’ disciples to share and participate in Jesus’ passage through his suffering and death to risen life. In this way Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our suffering and trials but enters our hearts and leads those who trust in him, to the hope and joy of sharing in Jesus’ risen life.