Ecclesiastes 3. 1-11; Ps 63; Romans 6.3-9; Luke 12. 35-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Lynn, at the sudden death of your brother. To you, Mary, at the sudden death of your spouse; and to Beth and Laurie, Michael and Matthew at the death of your father and stepfather. Your children grieve, too, for their grandfather and great uncle. Be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help your children grieve well. Nicholas and Carolyn and Grace, you will help your parents to experience your grandfather’s presence in real and new ways. All of Bernie’s family will 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 Bernard Lukco./1/
We are grateful, Diana, for your words of remembrance. Her words help us connect Bernie with the mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising we celebrate at his funeral mass. I want to reflect briefly with you on the scriptures Bernie’s family chose for his funeral.
As their were two eras in Bernie’s life, with Beth and Laurie and their mom and with Mary, Matthew and Michael, we all live in two eras of grace. The two eras of grace are before Jesus, the incarnation of God, and since Jesus. The church has always reminded us that the second era, the one in which we live, is yet to be completed: God-with-us in Jesus did not obliterate the human aspect of the world with its limits and imperfections. To use the words of Ecclesiastes, both time and the timeless, that is, God’s self, exist together. In different words Paul expressed the same in his Letter to the Romans: death and resurrection.
What does that mean for all of you? First, each person grieves in his or her way. Second, we experience people in different ways. Third, each of us develops over time. The fact that we grieve differently means our support of each other is vital. At times one person will feel Bernie’s loss more sharply than another. Our sensitivity to one another helps all of us. It also gives us courage when we experience Bernie’s absence in a painfully sharp way.
As we experience people differently, Bernie had different facets in his life. Beth named an earlier facet succinctly: “he spent his time and effort raising us.” Your education was important; he wanted you to “embrace what we love.” As I listened, I heard of a man who was captivated by things outside himself. Later, Bernie was able to be more reflective. Michael expressed that he saw Bernie was “where [Bernie] needed to be”; that implies not where Bernie felt he needed to be. Growth, much of it invisible to others, happened between these facets. It is not that Bernie became a different person but that his interests and his ways of being in the world shifted.
One way that presents to me, who did not have the privilege of knowing Bernie, is his career history: social studies teacher, job corps, guidance counselor, Ohio State, EPA, management & marketing. While education is the umbrella for them all, a subtle shift appears to me: from imparting knowledge to managing knowledge. I know that’s extremely simple, yet it parallels the difference between “facts and wisdom.” Having facts does not guarantee we use them well. The author of Ecclesiastes wrestled with that. There is an appointed time for everything, and often our busied lives prevent us from discovering that God is in all our time and activities; that God gave us creation to help us make a return of love to God more easily./2/ That is the beginning of graced wisdom for us.
Perhaps over time Bernie’s move from participating and leading associations to collecting antiques and doing his part to further historical restoration and preservation points to that shift from exterior to interior, from world to grace, from death to resurrection.
Bernie’s sudden death may well have left him with things undone and unsaid and desires to put into effect graced wisdom he had discovered. Mary chose the gospel selection in the light of Bernie’s sudden death, and she chose it because of the wisdom it imparted to her, to her family and to all of us.
Whatever Bernie may have left undone and unsaid is no fault. It is one of those twists of time over which none of us has control. Even our Messiah Jesus, who pitched his tent in our time-limited humanity, did not control it while he lived in our flesh.
Mary and her family chose the gospel selection with confidence that Jesus waits on Bernie because of Bernie’s faith in Jesus. The Prayer over the Gifts at a funeral mass echoes your confidence—indeed the confidence of the church—as it implores God: be merciful in judging our brother for he believed in Christ [Jesus] as his Lord and Savior./3/ That Jesus waits on us in the kingdom he has promised helps us appreciate the dry truth St. Paul announced: a dead person is absolved from sin. The church buries, it does not blame.
Plus, our Christian conviction is that life is changed not ended./4/ That conviction of our faith challenges us to let go of Bernie, no longer available to you, his family and friends, as he was, though our desire is to have him with us. We shall be reunited when Jesus returns in glory with salvation for his people./5/ It is while we await Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead and our reunion with them that we need to remember that promise and live from it: that our era of grace is victorious even without humans ever discovering...the work which God has done in Jesus by their Holy Spirit, work the Trinity continues to do in all people. By grace each of puts into effect what time did not allow Bernie to put into effect in his life.
1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 23.
3. (A) One Person, Outside the Easter Season, Roman Missal.
4. Preface for Christian Death I, Roman Missal.
5. Penitential Rite (C,ii), Roman Missal.
Wiki-image by Laszlo Ilyes of Christ the Redeemer statue is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Wiki-image of Resurrection Angel by Plasmoid is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.