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Funeral Homily

September 23, 2009

We’ve been going over Funerals in our homiletics class and it’s been very interesting.  Each of us received a randomly selected scenario of a person who recently passed away and the situation that took them into the next life.  With 16 guys in my class, I will hear 15 different situations plus my own.  We have everything from murder victims, to suicide victims, to dead infants, to old age.

My scenario was fairly straight forward, and I must say, much easier than many of my classmates…

“Thomas was a hard working man.  He loved ballet and opera.  When he died, Beethoven was playing on his cassette player.  He was survived by his wife of 48 years.  His children were by his bed when he died.  In his early days he was an usher.  He belonged to the Knights of Columbus.  He prayed the Rosary every day.”

I also received a Gospel reading, which was Luke 12:35-40.  My rough draft I prepared is below the fold.  We don’t use notes when we preach here, so it didn’t come out quite like this, but you get the idea.

It is part of our tradition as Catholics to end our day with a petition for a peaceful death.  As a priest, I pray for this every night, not only for myself, but for my parishioners and others whom I love.  And we priests see it all.  We see death under many of its most tragic circumstances and occasions.  We see far too many that are far from peaceful.  And some of those that are furthest from being peaceful are those in which the person dies alone.  Mothers asking themselves, “Where are my children?”  Old men asking, “Where are all my golfing buddies at when I need them most?”

And then, on the other hand, we see the peaceful deaths like the one that finally took Thomas.  The last gift that Thomas received from God in this life was the gift of being able to look at his family, the people he loved most, in those final precious moments, before he finally passed to the other side.

Peaceful deaths are a great blessing, and when they occur, it is not usually due to the nature of the affliction that takes them, whether it be cancer or old age, or something else.  Rather, a peaceful death happens to a person who lives a peaceful life, that is, a person who lives in harmony with God and those around him.  It comes to those who took this Gospel to heart.  It comes to those who kept their lamps lit, knowing that God could have taken them at any point.  Peaceful deaths come to those who remain vigilant as they wait for their Lord.  Peaceful deaths come to those who spend a lifetime preparing themselves for the moment when they finally pass.

One way Thomas did this was through elevating his mind to his Beautiful God.  He surrounded himself with beauty, spending hours watching ballet, and listening to opera and the very best classical composers, including Beethoven.  He, of course, married a beautiful woman who he spent the last 48 years with.  And in the end, her physical beauty was only outdone by the beauty of how she faithfully lived out her commitment to stay true to her beloved till death finally did them part.

Every day for most of his life, Thomas meditated on the beautiful life of his Lord, Jesus Christ through the recitation of the Rosary, which served as a preparation for his final moments.  As Thomas struggled for those last breaths, the image of our Lord on the cross taking his last breaths was made present before us.  Thomas found peace – peace, because he knew he was not alone.  Not only was his family there gasping for breathe in their grief, and compassionately suffering with him, but his Lord was there, also fighting for breath and suffering with him.

We are all rightfully sad right now, losing one of the good men of the parish.  One of the best volunteers the Knights of Columbus ever knew.  This sometimes catches us in a bit of a paradox.  On the one hand, we are sad, but on the other hand we might ask ourselves whether or not we should feel sad, since we have so much hope in eternal life.  This can cause confusion, and we might wonder where God is at work, if at all.  When we suffer grief, the first place to look for God is where Thomas found him.  On the cross.  Feel sad, and suffer, and cry, because the very same Lord who was present in Thomas’ suffering will make himself present in your grief and feelings of loss, and he brings with him, the gift of Peace, the very same peace that Thomas felt as he gently passed from this life and into the next.

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One comment

  1. Brian, this is a wonderful homily. You will be a very good priest.



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