Thursday, December 14, 2006

Funeral Homily

At the request of some parishioners, here is the funeral homily from this afternoon.

Today we gather to worship God and to commend the soul of our beloved brother in the Lord, David Laughlin (RIP), to God’s never failing mercy. Death comes for each one of us. For David, it was unexpected and it was far too early, at a mere 48 years of age. Today we also gather to give thanks for the moments he shared with us, and I encourage you to share those memories with each other in the reception after this Requiem Mass.

All of this together is a celebration of life—the life that David lived among us, and the life eternal which is our hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. David is remembered as fully enjoying the happy life he lived—as being a friend to all, as open and generous, as a lover of music, and with a tender heart for God’s furry little (and not-so-little)creatures. There’s no point in saying that he will be missed; he has been missed so much already.

Our gospel reading today (John 14:1-6), which was the passage chosen by the family among several options, is by far the one most commonly chosen for funerals. Perhaps it is such a common choice because it touches upon so many of the feelings experienced at this time by family and friends. Jesus talks about finding peace for troubled hearts, about trusting in Christ, and about finding the way home. And the context is that Jesus is saying goodbye to his closest friends, an opportunity we would all like to have before death comes. It is the Last Supper, and in less than 24 hours, Jesus will die upon the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Jesus knows it, but they are not able to see it.

However, they do understand that for some reason, he will have to go away. And that is not something they want to hear. Their hearts are troubled. Why all this talk of leaving and betrayal? Why now? Why go? What next? Just as was spoken by an angel to his Mother before Jesus was born, he tells his friends not to be afraid. He can understand their anxiety, but he wants them to be reassured. They may not understand everything that’s going on, but they should remember how they’ve learned to trust him.

Jesus’ word to them, is his word to all of his disciples, anxious in their loss. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You have trusted in God, trust in me also.” Sometimes the same moments in which things seem out of control, things are actually just as they should be. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” And with that encouragement, he reminds us to have faith.

Real faith rallies our spirits with the reminder that even in facing loss, there is still nothing of which to be afraid. In your hour of trouble, more than ever, believe in God. Believe that there is a God—that you are never alone in the anxieties of life, that you never have to simply try to manage things on your own, that you can always go to him as a loving Father, and that even when you forget about him, he is there seeking you out, because God loves you.

Though Jesus has shown his disciples a life of utter trust in God the Father, he is about to take that lesson to the next level with his journey to the cross. “Where I am going, you cannot follow. I go to prepare a place for you.” If your believe in God needs to be strengthened, you will find all the strength you need in Jesus. We can be sure that he is strong where we are weak, and that he knows what he’s talking about.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus tells us that the Father’s will is that we find a home in our Father’s house. The Son’s work is to “go and prepare a place” for us in his Father’s house. At the time a time known only to God, Jesus says he will come and take you to myself—“that where I am, you may be also.” David was the kind of person who was always making himself at home. Those who knew and loved him best described him to me as always popping in, hanging out, staying over, being casual, making himself at home. Through our Lord, we have a home in his Father’s house.

It makes sense that Jesus would describe paradise in this way. Is that not what a home really should be after all—a little corner of paradise. Of course, on God’s scale, it is far more than we could imagine. Mansion after mansion and glory after glory has been prepared for us, and yet it is also the kind of home you could never get lost in, a home that is always cozy—a warm spot to be at home.

Home is a place of love and happiness, that’s why Jesus called heaven our home. Home is a place of cheer and fellowship—of sharing good times with old friends and having a good time making new ones. That’s why Jesus called heaven our home. Home is a place of love and forgiveness, where people wait for you with open arms. Home is a place where wounds are healed and hearts are mended. Home is a place of embraces and kisses and smiles and joy. That’s why Jesus called heaven our home.

This is the place that Jesus has prepared for us—a home in the bosom of the Father. And one day, our home will become a new heaven and a new earth. We will be raised from the dead to live with no more suffering and death. We will and come home and walk and talk with Jesus, face to face.

In New Testament times, the Jewish people longed to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There were festivals to keep and sites of all kinds to see , to be sure. But the reason they wanted to go there above all is because that’s where God’s home was. That's where God lived—that’s where he chose to dwell, in the great Temple of Jerusalem on Mount Zion.

The American folk hymn expressed that feeling in these words: “Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee? When shall my sorrows have an end? Thy joys, when shall I see? There saints are crowned with glory great; they see God face to face; they triumph still, they still rejoice, in that most happy place.”

In our gospel today, Jesus is showing us how to say good-bye (at least for now). Not all of us want to say good-bye. Thomas didn’t. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We might say, home is not so much as matter of “Where?” as of “Who?”

Today, we say good-bye to David and we pray that he may take his rest and be at home with all the faithful departed and our Lord Jesus in his Father’s house. This is what Jesus makes possible for all of us.

Let us pray.
Almighty God, with whom still live the spirits of those who die in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: We give you heartfelt thanks for the good examples of all your servants, who, having finished their course in faith, now find rest and refreshment. May we, with David and all who have died in the true faith of your holy Name, have perfect fulfillment and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a touching homily. Thank you for sharing it.
Lynn Busch