It was a week of four funerals at home. One was for my first cousin Eileen who is the same age as me. Another was Mary O'Connor who was one of the early and strong mothers of Ceannt Avenue. Memories flood in, feeling are stirred. Even when the deceased is not close to me I still soak up the grief and by the end of the last funeral I was feeling fairly shattered.
Harry and I went to collect Katie and Laura from school and when we got back to Toorkeel the two girls brought me out the back to show me something important. Harry had already told me but their version was special. The girls are aged 6 and four respectively.
Princess the goldfish died in her tank. Katie and Laura were sorrow-struck and they buried her in a pink box under a sod of earth out the back. Next day they went out to have a look at the little grave and lo and behold nothing remained under the sod. "Guess what happened!" they told me "God came down and took the box and Princess up to heaven!" They are delighted with the outcome. They know now what happens when people die. They have been wondering about Nana and Grandad Monson. They've seen their grave. And the idea doesn't scare them as it might because they know what God does when a loved one dies.
After a while splashing in mud puddles we went in for dinner. The grandparents were there to celebrate their wedding anniversary and ten of us sat around the big table for dinner including baby Jack. A happy gathering.
Katie left the table to go and watch television. After a while she was back standing silently at the door, looking at me. I unserstood that I was to go with her and the two of us snuggled together on the couch eating chocolate cake.
There was in me a feeling of completeness, contentment and the stress of death was washed away. An interior feeling of dried tears. This must surely be a preview of the Banquet in the Kingdom of heaven that is spoken about in the Bible:
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
The Wedding Banquet spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 22:1-14) is offered first to the Chosen People but they are not interested and refuse the invitation, sometimes violently. The Banquet is then opened up to everyone on the highways and byways so that the wedding hall is filled with "bad and good alike."
The inclusion of the bad is interesting in the light of the current discussion in the Church about who should or should not be admitted to Holy Communion.
The table in Scripture is the place of belonging, the place of intimacy. The religious leaders were offended and scandalized when Jesus sat a table with sinners, for there were many of them among his followers.
The table of the Eucharist is certainly infinitely more sacred than any other and should not be treated lightly or with disprespect but it is significant that Jesus sat at the table of the Eucharist with Judas and that he washed his feet in the perfection of his love. We as the Body of Christ in our time have to take this to heart.
There is, of course, the requirement that the guests at the wedding should wear the wedding garment and the one who had none was thrown out. Everyone else, the bad as well as the good, were allowed stay because they were wearing the wedding garment.
In wondering what is the meaning of the wedding garment, my mind is taken to the liturgy of baptism in which in newly baptized is wrapped in a white garment as a sign of new life in Christ - "you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity"
We come to the table clothed in Christ, we have "put on Christ" and so we are required to bring to the table the reality of our lives lived in Christ, lives that give expression to the fruits of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. None of us possess all of these in perfection but we strive for them every day.
This I think is what the garment means and it means the presence of harmony in our gatherings and relationships. It means the absence or freedom from rancour and discord.
This is what I was expreiencing with the family that day and, something I experience with the children is the absence of judgement.
If there are issues that disrupt our being together then we have to try to deal with them. If I have issues that disrupt or disturb others then I have the responsibility to struggle with them and sort them out.
Often we give up this struggle thinking it futile but we have a reminder from St. Paul in a line that has been significant for me in overcoming something in the past - "there is nothing that I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:3)
It is an important part of the garment that I need to wear if I want to take my place in the celebration of the Kingdom of Heaven and that Kingdom begins here and now.