Saturday, October 03, 2009

Saturday word, 03 Oct 2009

Gentry Lee Cooper Jr. funeral (03 Oct 2009)
Eccl 3. 1-14; Ps 23; Rm 5.5-11; Jn 5. 24-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith and Promise

On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Clarence at the death of your brother; and to Ellis, Gentry, Donna, Derrick and Celeste at the death of your father. Your children grieve, too, for their grandfather. Be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help your children grieve well. Evan, Ariane, Sawana and Craig, you will help your parents to experience your grandfather’s presence in real and new ways. All of Gentry’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 Gentry Lee Cooper Jr./1/

We are grateful, Donna, for your remembrance of your dad. Her spoken words and Celeste’s written words all of us have in the worship aid help us connect your brother, father and grandfather with the mystery of Jesus dying and rising we celebrate at his funeral mass.

I am grateful to Donna and Celeste for confirming what I observed about your father and your grandfather in the few years I have been at his longtime parish. “Man of faith” and “man of promise” are how their words and the words of scripture shape my remarks.

While some of you know, everyone else who follows the line along which my finger points will know where Gentry sat at each 10:30 Sunday mass here at Gesu. Quietly engaged with the community at the Lord’s table and with our Messiah and his, Gentry brought his week to Jesus and asked Jesus to guide him in his week to come.

His fidelity allowed him to be generous and, together with your mother, to shape his family to be good and generous. Gentry encountered Jesus in a personal way through your mother, for whom he became Catholic and with whom he lived his faith in Jesus.

His relationship with Jesus expressed itself in his patient goodness. His goodness practiced reassures us that your father and grandfather, brother and uncle and friend, felt God’s power in his life. Holy Spirit is the name we give to God’s power. We heard St. Paul remind us, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Human words cannot exhaust the meaning of God love, the way that our words, “I love you,” never fully express what we mean with them. Yet that does not mean that speaker and hearer do not know love. Gentry Lee Cooper Jr. knew what words can only point to: God loved him and was loyal to him.

This was not easy. Gentry struggled with four cancers yet knew God’s loyalty and presence. You, his family and friends, and I face this time under the heavens. God has not changed God’s fidelity to Gentry. Gentry’s life is changed not ended./2/ That conviction of our faith challenges us to let go of him--he is not available to you, his family and friends, as he was. Still, our desire is to have him 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 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 as your father and grandfather, brother and uncle did.

The man who provided for you, his children, who put first his wife and his family, made the promise of life real for you. As Celeste and Donna put it, speaking for you all: “We knew our [parents’] love; we grew up seeing their love, and they knew our love.” Their love for you and for your children embodied our Triune God’s for you. Without having to know about the mystery we name the Incarnation, you have known it! You will see your father and grandfather again and know his love in ways none of us can imagine.

Your father also modeled how to hold on to the promise of our faith. Donna told me that the Saturday your mother was buried she saw your Dad at her grave, speaking softly. Later, Donna asked Gentry what he said. He said he promised to visit Gwen’s grave every week. For 13 years, with a yellow rose in hand, Gentry fulfilled his promise. Hold on to that memory: his memory and his promise kept!

Memories and dreams—both waking dreams and sleeping dreams—play roles in accepting death and in grieving. Memories and dreams also play roles in our faith lives. In his final days, Gentry dreamed of your mother, calling out, “Gwen, Gwen! The pickles!” While we cannot know now his dream, it is safe to guess the scene may well have been one of those many family gatherings at which Gentry hosted, entertained and BBQed for you. Surely God is hosting and entertaining Gentry with divine life and love that exceeds what any of us can imagine!

Jesus reminded us in the gospel, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and...has passed from death to life. Hear Jesus’ words as his promise to your father. Thank Jesus for the gift of your father and your mother; thank Jesus for their love, which made Jesus real to you. Remember they passed the faith to you. As they made its promise real for you, honor them by keeping the promise alive for one another and for everyone you meet.

1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Preface for Christian Death I,
Roman Missal.
3. Penitential Rite (C,ii),
Roman Missal.
Wiki-image by Elucidate of a yellow rose is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Wiki-image of the Resurrection is in the public domain.

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