Is 61. 1-6; Ps 23; 1Th 4. 13-18; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Divine As Well As Human
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Joseph and John at the death of your dear brother, Dominic. In part I pray that you be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help you grieve well. Dominic’s nephews, nieces and their families grieve, too. You will all experience his presence in real and new ways.
Today the Catholic church bids farewell to one of hers. I offer a few words to console and strengthen you in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in Dominic./1/
I am at a disadvantage because I did not know Dominic. You moved away from Gesu well before my arrival. I am grateful to Joe and Pat for drawing a portrait in words of Dominic for me. Because Joe coordinated things from Washington so well, John, you were present in spirit on Monday when Joe and Pat met with me.
We gather in University Heights, the home of your youth, in your boyhood parish of Gesu. While we gather people near and as far as Milwaukee, both Carolinas, Floridian cities, of course, California and New Jersey have expressed their condolences to you and their fond memories of and how Dominic affected their lives on the Plain Dealer guestbook webpage. Some of the people who expressed their sentiments on it may be only a few of the many with whom Dominic kept in touch.
I’d like to reflect with you on one aspect of our life with Jesus, which Dominic enjoyed. What moved me in getting acquainted with Dominic through you was the aspect of Jesus we call prophetic. Baptized into Jesus incorporates us into our Messiah, whom we describe as Priest, Prophet and King. Those titles are remembered as each of us was anointed with fragrant chrism, that oil named for Jesus’ Spirit. As the priest anointed the newly baptized Dominic—indeed as priests anoint all infants—with the chrism of salvation, he spoke:
As Christ Jesus was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life./2/Membership in Jesus’ body is not passive. It’s an active incorporation into the risen life of our Messiah Jesus. That means that by baptism our Christian living is priestly because our living sanctifies our world; our Christian living is royal because it imparts new values to all for the sake of our world; and our Christian living is prophetic because our living communicates divine life to our world.
Prophet and prophetic may suggest doom and gloom because we so often use the words in that context. That use limits their first meaning because prophets are megaphones for God, who uses human speech and living to communicate with humans. Prophets channels divine life to us: at times prophets challenge; they also affirm and inspire godly living.
Prophets are “thoughtful” and “deliberate,” two words, you Pat, used in describing Dominic. In recalling Dominic’s youthful career as Mr. Magic, Joe, you summarized by saying that one of your brother’s outstanding gifts as “he captured the hearts and feelings of people in addition to their attention.” Those are prophetic features. “thoughtful” and “deliberate”; “captured the hearts and feelings” are prophetic qualities.
All of us baptized into Jesus and into one another—his body—are called to focus on Jesus and to reshape our lives according to his life, to make our way of choosing ever more in sync with his gospel. That kind of focus we call praying, and the act of praying helps our spirits to follow the promptings and the lead of Jesus’ Spirit.
Paying attention to Jesus’ heart and to our hearts allows God to recreate us at each moment, as oaks of justice and ministers of our God, as Isaiah reminded us.
The ministry God gives each of us connects people. Dominic “connected with people,” which is why people were attracted to him and why so many kept in touch. What I hope you will always remember and cherish is that while connecting with people is a human quality, it’s a divine quality at the same time, a grace given to us so that we can make a return of love to God more easily each day we live on earth./3/
Isaiah offered us a litany of the effects of God’s Spirit in action: to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal broken hearts, to announce... [God’s] liberty...and to comfort all who mourn. We tend to think of Isaiah’s words as a prophet’s job description, and so they are. They also describe effects on people God’s Spirit accomplishes through us when we give ourselves to the Spirit.
Artis Claudle of Charlotte, North Carolina, one who used the Plain Dealer Guestbook, expressed the concrete effect Dominic had on him: “I miss him, love him, and will never ever forget the impact he has had on my life all these years.”/4/ Dominic gave himself to Jesus’ Spirit, who empowered him to effect Artis and many others in concrete ways.
Dominic’s hugs, his smile, his warm, voice-mail messages, his joy with his family gathered are more concrete effects. Dominic allowed himself to be moved by Jesus’ Spirit, which is why he was able to affect the lives of people the ways he did.
These effects allow us to taste God’s love here and now. Tasting God’s love now can limit our hope in its fullness to come. Yet God’s love is both present and future as Jesus reminded us. Jesus reminder we heard in his words to his disciples: I am going to prepare a place for you...and I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.
Fortunately for you, his family and friends, Dominic pointed the way for you to continue your travel—even for me, who only knows him through your kindness. Dominic will continue to guide you as you experience his presence in those real and new ways which God promises each of you, ways you will discover.
1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Rite of Baptism for Children, 141 & 63.
3. Paraphrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola: his Spiritual Exercises, .
4. Plain Dealer online Guest Book, p. 1.
Wiki-images of Isaiah and Jesus' farewell to his disciples are in the public domain.