Friday, January 18, 2013

The Promise that Sustains Us

The USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway
The other day, I offered the Funeral Mass for a parishioner of mine named Warren. As is often the case, I didn't know Warren particularly well.  Up until a few months ago, I'd see him and his wife as they would arrive for Sunday morning Mass.  Always a joyful fellow, Warren and I would exchange pleasantries and that was about it.  He was an usher here for years and you could tell that the little kids at Mass loved him.  In the pews at his Funeral Mass were his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  And, of course, so was his lovely wife, Virginia.  They've been married for 68 years.

On June 4th, 1942, Warren was not in Beverly, Massachusetts where he was born and raised.  On that day, having left family and friends behind, Warren was on the USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway.  Although a victorious day for the US Navy, the Yorktown sustained heavy damage from Japanese Bombers and torpedoes.  Warren would have heard words that day that must have been intensely frightening to his young ears: "All Hands, Abandon Ship."  I'm sure that Warren wondered more than once whether he would survive the war. 

I imagine that seven decades ago when Warren joined the Navy, his family members and friends were anxious about his safety.  Perhaps they saw him off as he shipped out and they wondered if they would ever see him again.  They must have lived each day with anxiety, wondering if he would ever return home.  Would some terrible tragedy befall him?  Their anxieties would have been justified. When they saw him off that day, no matter what optimistic words were spoken, they knew that they were sending him into danger.

This week, we accompanied Warren to a new departure. Again, those who loved him could accompany him only so far. He would have to pass beyond the veil without them. But this time, the words spoken at the final farewell had power to dispel all fear and anxiety. The Gospel at his funeral Mass was taken from The Sixth Chapter of St. John's Gospel. The man who eats the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks his blood will live forever and he will rise on the last day. Those words must provide enormous consolation to those who mourn.  Warren faithfully received the food of everlasting life. Every time he received the Eucharist, he received a promise, the promise of immortality.

Although we all approach death with some fear and trembling, Warren's family had the consolation of knowing that they were not sending him off to danger. They were sending him to the fulfillment of the promise. They were sending him into the arms of the One who is the Resurrection and the Life.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! I will send this to my son who was in the Navy.