Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Funeral Homily: Christ, Our Peace and Our Way Home

Today, I returned to my first parish assignment in order to offer the Funeral Mass of a 27 year old man. I don't think I've offered Mass in that church in seventeen years.  It was a profound experience to be back. I didn't preach from a text, but this is the general idea of the homily.

In the midst of so much sorrow and pain today, there is nonetheless a sense of fittingness in being here in this church.  The other day when Matthew's parents called me to tell me of Matthew's death, I was struck by a couple of things that they said; things that can help us to make our way through the maze of grief and suffering that today overwhelms us.

Firstly, they told me how grateful they were that Matthew was able to spend the last days of his illness at home.  Again and again, you have repeated how much it meant to you to have him home. This deep desire of yours to have your boy "home" really moved me. It was what a desire that was truly parental. You wanted him to spend his last days at home. I presume that you wanted him home because "home" is where he could feel safe, feel loved, feel comfortable.  This desire of yours is so beautiful. So profound. It speaks so profoundly of your fatherly and motherly love for Matthew. You wanted him home.

This desire of yours, however, is even deeper than that. Our presence here this morning at Mass is a recognition that your desire for Matthew to be home didn't end at the front door of your house. That desire brought you here. You recognize by Faith that Matthew's true home, as St. Paul reminds us, is in heaven. Just as you brought your son home from the hospital so that he could spend his last days on earth feeling comforted, safe, and loved, now you bring him to the threshold of eternity. You know that Matthew was made for to feel infinitely safe, infinitely, comforted, and infinitely loved.

You wanted Matthew to be home.  God the Father also desires Matthew to be home. For this purpose, he sent his Son to suffer and to die for us. Jesus said in the Gospel today, "You know where I am going."  Where was he going?  He was going to prepare a place for us in the Father's House.  And he says that he is the way to the Father.  By bringing Matthew here today, you do so with the serenity of Faith. You trust that Jesus who died and rose did so so that Matthew could go home to the Father's House.

The second thing you said to me that struck me is that Matthew was a peace maker, always bringing people together.  Often when I offer a Funeral Mass, I look to see what feast day the Church is celebrating, thinking that God might want to offer us some word of consolation from the liturgical feast.  Today, the day of Matthew's funeral, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Martin de Porres.  St. Martin was born in Peru and suffered greatly because he was of a mixed race. Eventually, Martin joined a religious order (and still suffered). But, he was known to be a great peacemaker.  In fact, when you see him depicted in art, often at his feet are images of a dog, a cat, and a mouse.  The reason for this is because they'd say that Martin was such a great peacemaker that he could even get the dog, cat, and mouse all to get along.  It is fitting then then we celebrate Matthew's funeral Mass on this Feast of St. Martin.

Of course, you know that true peace comes only from God. God desires all of us to experience the peace of his very life.  For all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in a perfect communion, a perfect peace. Through sin, we were no longer at peace with God and with one another.  Through our own fault, we became God's enemies.  But God did not abandon us. He wanted to draw us into his Divine life, into his Divine peace. And so, he sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself, to reestablish peace between us. He did that on the Cross. 

On the day of Matthew's baptism, Matthew came to share in the Divine life. God reconciled Matthew to Himself. The peace of the Blessed Trinity came to dwell in Matthew. We are here today because God wants all of us to be reconciled to Himself. He wants all of us to share in his gift of peace.

It is indeed fitting for us all to be here this morning. Nothing I say can take away your sorrow, nor should it. It is right for us to mourn and to be sorrowful. But, as St. Paul reminds us, we mourn differently than the world mourns. We mourn with hope.  The world sees death as the end. The world sees this life as our only home.  For us, we know by faith that our home is to be with God. We know that we are made not for just a passing experience of peace, but for the perfect peace given to the blessed in heaven.

On a personal note, I wish to commend you. You not only provided your son the opportunity to experience peace in his own home during his last days on earth, but you bring him here today and you pray for him and entrust him confidently into the arms of Jesus. In praying for Matthew, you continue love him by bringing him to Christ who is our lasting peace and the way to the home of the Father. May the saints and angels welcome Matthew into the embrace of his heavenly home and may God grant him never ending peace.

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