Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday word, 11 Sep 2009

Anna Mae Schager funeral (11 Sep 2009)
Wis 3. 1-9; Ps 23; 1Co 12.31-13.8; Mt 5. 1-12a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Shaped Anew

On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Susann, Patricia and Nancy at the death of your mother, Anna Mae. Your children grieve, too. I noted that you requested gifts be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Hospice of the Western Reserve. Your mom required that kind of care, and your dad did in a more prolonged way. I know what that’s like because my sister informed me while I was living in Asia that Alzheimer’s began to manifest itself in our mom. When I returned in eight months I was able to help my sister, who had been doing the lion’s share of being with our mom and getting her good care.

Although my mom is still alive and profits from full care—not yet hospice-care—I grieve often as she lives her long good bye, as Alzheimer’s is aptly called. I pray that you be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help you grieve well and come to experience your mom’s 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 Anna Mae./1/

We are grateful for the words of remembrance Patty offered. They helped us connect your mom and her passing with the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am grateful to Susann for selecting the scriptures proclaimed at Anna Mae’s funeral mass. They shape my brief reflection with you.

I did not have the privilege to meet Anna Mae or Arthur because she had moved and Arthur had died before I came to Gesu Parish over three years ago. I would like to reflect with you on the challenge to let go of our loved ones.

All of us can name challenging times in our lives when people accompanied us through a challenge. All of us can recall how important their presence was, although they could not change our circumstances. Parents and grandparents accompany us in most significant ways. We accompany Anna Mea to church for the last time.

Of course, Anna Mae’s life is changed not ended./2/ That conviction of our faith challenges us to let go of Anna Mae—she is not available to you, her family and friends, as she was—even though our desire is to have her with us; and the assurance of our faith promises that we shall be reunited when Jesus returns in glory with salvation for his people./3/ It is during the interval while we await Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead and our reunion with them that we need graced companionship. That’s why we come here. We pray for ourselves as much as, or even more, than for Anna Mae.

The Book of Wisdom reminded us that Anna Mae’s hope [was] full of immortality. I hope your prayers for your mother and grandmother will also deepen your hope to continue to share God’s life now and completely one day. That’s what immortality is, God’s life.

Graced companionship is not only for church. God works in every moment of our lives. At each moment our triune God creates us. When people enjoy clarity, people enjoy God’s companionship. When we experience anew our connection with God, we enjoy God’s com-panionship. Jesus embodied this graced companionship and modeled it for us. We name it Christian love.

Christian love is not an emotion, it’s an action with many aspects as St. Paul reminded us. Perhaps now is the time to remember that Christian love bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things.

“Now” because grieving is heavy yet we can move through it as you already have with your dad and your maternal aunt. Moving through grief not only challenges our belief and hope, it shapes them.

Memories and dreams—both waking dreams and sleeping dreams—play roles in grieving. Memories and dreams also play roles in our faith lives. The memory of Jesus in the early church lives in our worship and in our Christian loving each day. More than challenging our Christian faith, hope and love, grieving, that is, letting go of those who go before us filled with the hope of immortality, allow us to exercise our Christian faith, hope and love in more authentic ways.

Without knowing your mom or your dad, your grandmother or your grandfather, I’ve learned their prayerful desire and their prayerful desire for each of you was to live authentic Christian lives. Active Christian loving allows God and others into our lives. Allowing others is active; it doesn’t seem so because we are not in control.

The Beatitudes challenge us precisely to welcome God’s loving kindness each day so that, like Anna Mae, we will one day be able to rest in God’s merciful loving and enjoy new life, life more vibrant than we can imagine.

Until we enjoy God’s life in an unveiled way and see our God as [God is],/4/ graced companionship in its many forms, especially as human accompaniment, is that still more excellent way, which is our surest guide to live authentically the Christian life your parents and your grandparents, in their own ways, have bequeathed to you. Their legacy puts you in contact with the Source of all life, whose Holy Spirit renews your life and is your power to accompany others as your parents and grandparents accompanied you with their lives.

1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Preface for Christian Death I, Roman Missal.
3. Penitential Rite (C,ii), Roman Missal.
4. Eucharistic Prayer III, Roman Missal.
Wiki-images of the Resurrection is in the public domain and of the mother of all virtues is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license .

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