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Debs at Court

‘O Grave where is thy victory – O Death where is thy sting?’

15 April 2007 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

I caught the start of a fascinating radio programme on Friday about the final occasion on which debutants were presented at Court. It was part of a series called The Reunion – which reports on a variety of different groups getting back together to share memories of good times. The gals were part of the class of 1958 – the year before I was born. I had heard about ‘debs delights’ before, but am not sure how controversial is the claim made by a Leslie Phillips type smoothie, who referred to the intellectual deficiencies of the typical debutant: ‘They were just so gloriously and wonderfully uneducated’. I’m not sure that was fair, having heard about the various finishing schools many of them attended – some quite local to this parish. I couldn’t help notice an Easter reference, on hearing a quote from what was, I think, the Daily Express caption competition to mark the passing of this wonderful tradition of being presented to the monarch: ‘O Deb, where is thy fling?’

The disciples gather for a reunion on what is described as the first day of the week after the Sabbath (now of course this is Sunday) on both Easter day and then a week later. Just as Jesus caused a stir by his welcome and association with tax collectors and sinners, who were made to feel forgiven and included in the party, so now, it is the turn of the motley collection of disciples to experience the love of the Lord. His first gift is of peace…no reproach…no telling off for their lack of loyalty. His wounds are visible as he stands before them – energetic, strong, and serene. Peace be unto you. ‘Then were they glad’ is a real understatement. They were full of joy. Yet we note that the danger they were in, had not abated…the problems were still with them…but their fears were put into proper proportion because Jesus is present. The risen Lord appears with his wounds, and these wounds continue to be shared by anyone who tries to follow him. The good news though, is that the presence of Jesus brings the gift of peace, giving strength to endure all kinds of suffering.

Today’s gospel reading can be understood as the ‘Johannine Pentecost’ and indeed it is the gospel set for the feast of Whitsun in revised modern lectionaries. Only St. Luke postpones the giving of the Spirit to later on in the narrative. Whereas St. John relates it all to the ‘hour’ of Jesus at his death and Resurrection. The coming of the Spirit is intertwined with the glorification of Jesus – exalted on the Cross…and with his yielding up his spirit…and as blood and water (which are symbols of the life-giving Spirit) flow from his pierced side. The gift of the Spirit to the frightened apostles in the upper room empowers them for their mission. A mission which places forgiveness at the heart of resurrection. Forgiveness that engenders peace.

Peace is a word at the heart of our liturgy – Glory be to God on high, and in earth peace

The peace of the Lord be always with you

O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace

Go in the peace of Christ

Also we pray that the departed may rest in peace

Not peace and quiet, but rather a reassurance of calming love, and a challenging call to face our own wounds and the wounds of the world, and triumph over them in union with the risen Lord.

Christ’s peace banishes fear, and rids the soul of resentment about the present, or anxiety about the future, and reminds us that we are called friends. Friends of God. Partners in telling the good news…thankful that we are forgiven and eager to share that forgiveness. You might describe the Church as forgiven forgivers. ‘As the Father hath sent me, even so I send you’.

The Christian community is the home of Christ's peace. The aim of every church is to make people feel accepted and wanted. It is a lovely thing to be desired. Wanted as those whom God has forgiven, and whose sins are not even mentioned or held against them. So may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all as we celebrate yet again another reunion…both with God in the sacrament… a reunion with our fellow baptised Christians…presented unto the Father by the Son as eternal debs at court.
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