Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday word

Rosemarie L. Barth memorial mass (03Feb07) Ps23; Ps103; 1Jn 3.18-20; Jn 14.1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Already Behind Us

On behalf of Gesu Parish as well as personally, allow me to express our prayerful condolences at the passing of Rosemarie Barth. With a funeral in California and a memorial mass here before interring Rosemarie’s ashes at Holy Cross Cemetery, this has been a long process for you. I want to thank Mary Lee Materna for helping me enter this final farewell liturgy and for helping me get acquainted with Rosemarie.

I want us to remember that we make visible the communion of saints. The difference is that we welcome Rosemarie’s remains, while our sisters and brothers in glory welcome Rosemarie into that life we await. But that difference is not as distinct as we might first imagine.

Rosemarie; we who survive her; and the saints in glory--all of us who have been baptized into Christ already share what is essential, what is most true and real. Baptism connects us with Christ Jesus by washing us with both his death and life. That’s how baptism connects us with each other, and time, presence and absence from earth cannot weaken that connection.

We recalled, as we do at every celebration for the faithful departed, that baptism begins our more real life in Christ. We have already died in Christ and risen with Christ to our new, more real life. We live two lives now: our transitory life and our glorious life, albeit partially. Baptism and human death make us aware, as Mark Searle, who had thought long and hard about them both, put it,

that we are a people who have confronted death and survived it.... What would it mean to live with death behind us? What would it mean to be already living life-after-death, the life of the world to come?/1/

Rosemarie answered both questions with her life, which is the best way Catholics answer these questions of Christian mystery. She was idealistic, Mary Lee’s word. But Rosemarie’s ideals were not isms, and she did not leave them unpracticed. Rosemarie was as independent as she was other-centered, even selfless. She was devoted to her family. Devotion in our Catholic sense of the word is a self-gift to others in as wholehearted and loyal a way as possible.

Devotion is mutual. If any of us want proof, we need turn no further than her three loyal friends who visited her ‘til she breathed her last.

Another way Rosemarie already lived the more real life of the world to come was her felt know- ledge of loss and its pain after the death of her husband. For how many years was she acquainted with that loss, Mary Lee? "Thirty-four years." That was not a tragedy. Remember: “we Christians are a people who have confronted death and survived it.” That happened in baptism before Rosemarie, like many of us here, could remember. Each one comes to accept that by each one’s experience of loss and the pain that accompanies it.

Rosemarie surrendered herself to that pain, and like surrendering herself to dying with Christ to rise with him, she surrendered her life here when Neal needed her. She moved to California and devoted herself to Allison and caring for her.

I hope you’re getting a stronger sense of the process of death leading to new life; of already living life-after-death. We cannot enjoy it without experiencing loss and its pain. The funeral rite says it confidently: “Although this congregation will disperse in sorrow, the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of his kingdom.”/2/

Rosemarie has testified to us that she and we already taste the mercy of God. Because of her openness to “already living the life-after-death” she blesses you with new hope and ways of living it, too. Especially in your sadness remember that Rosemarie, your mother, your grandmother, your friend, helps you to make more clearly visible the communion of saints and more confidently “to live with death behind us” because we remain connected to Jesus, our Savior, and to Rosemarie, and both of them can never die again.

/1/ “Sunday: The Heart of the Liturgical Year,” The Church Gives Thanks and Remembers: Essays on the Liturgical Year, ed. Lawrence J. Johnson, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1984, p. 26.

/2/ Order of Christian Funerals, 198B

Photo of an Armlet with the Resurrection of Christ is in the public domain.

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