Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday word, 27 Oct 2009

Fred Rudin funeral (27 Oct 2009)
Eccl 3. 1-14; Ps; Rv 20.13; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Loyalty

On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Rosemarie, at the death of your spouse of more than 50 years; to you, Kathryn, Fred, Joseph, Susan, Carolyn, Stephen and James at the death of your father. Be more courageous than your grief is sharp. Your children grieve, too. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help your children grieve well. Christopher, Lauryn, Annmarie, Matthew, Lesley and Michael: you will help your parents to experience your grandfather’s presence in real and new ways. All Fred’s family and friends 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 Fred Rudin./1/

We are grateful, James, for your words of remembrance. Your words help us connect Fred with the mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising we celebrate today. I want to reflect briefly with you on the scriptures Fred’s family chose for his funeral and a detail they reveal.

When Fred’s children were selecting scriptures for his funeral mass, their memories painted a portrait in words to help me appreciate their spouse and father. At one point, James, interjected how his thoughts about his dad organized themselves: “PHD: provider; husband; dad.” Your individual memories shared with me highlighted each of those descriptions. Also, they suggest sacramental images which, I hope, benefit you today and in your future.

In bringing Fred to church for the last time, we gather around the altar-table of our Lord Jesus. While it is significant in many ways, our gathering around the altar-table of our Lord Jesus reassembles each of us into a community of his disciples. The time you spent with your husband and father around your kitchen table echoes our gathering today. Around your kitchen table you listened to one another as well as spoke. Here we listen to God’s shaping and saving word. Around your kitchen table you enjoyed your mom and grandmother’s delicious meals. Here we feast on the body and blood of Jesus so we can live more like him wherever we are.

As the eucharist nourishes us in deeply real ways, it does not slake our hunger and thirst. Even as your meals at home satisfied your hunger and thirst, you received more real and more substantial nourishment from your spouse, father and grandfather. He let you know he was proud of you. He encouraged you to grow, be yourselves, pursue your dreams and do your best. That nourishment is more substantial, not only because you remember, but because it has shaped you to be who you are.

Beyond the kitchen table and their home and their young years, Fred kept in touch with his children. He loved calling them, and he enjoyed hearing their voices. On the phone Fred echoed what he had told them in person: “I’m here for you if you need me.” If the moment was difficult or challenging, Fred would close with encouragement: “keep smiling!”

Fred’s closing opens another sacramental effect. Jesus is the sacrament of God. The Latin word sacrament translated the earlier way people spoke of Jesus as embodying God. Sacrament was the oath Roman soldiers made to the emperor. Christians made it their word to convey loyalty they wanted to express. Looking at Jesus reminds us that Jesus reversed the direction of loyalty—from God to us—and embodied God’s solemn promise to abide with us! Fred’s “I’m here for you if you need me,” echoed Jesus’ sacrament—God’s solemn promise—I am with you always, even to the close of the age!/2/

The Book of Revelation, seeking to console people who suffered, expressed Jesus’ promise in words we just heard. Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God...will always be with them as their God. More substantial than a dwelling with walls, God is personally with us! No walls, yet real and abiding presence!

Our imaginations are limited by our senses. Jesus recognized our limits and with limited imagery expressed personal presence with us and action for us: I go and [I] prepare a place for you...where I am you also may be. Sharing life, Jesus’ risen life, is the point.

I think Fred intuited that. He knew we are limited in all kinds of ways. He knew that things, gifts, sporting tickets, shared activities with family and with his extended family of Gesu pointed to the truly substantial: affection; joy; family bonds; love in all its forms.

Our celebration of Christmas embodies that. What is more substantial than God sharing our humanity so we become divine, to share God’s enduring life? Christmas will sting this year because your, spouse, father, grandfather, relative and friend will not be there to welcome you home, to have him available to you as he was. That is real and will be difficult. You told me you are already anticipating it. Yet his more substantial presence & love, which contributed greatly to shaping who you have become today, will remain with you. How to describe it? A spatial image, limited as it is, may help.

When my father realized he would die, he told my niece, “I’m sorry, Diana, but I don’t think I’ll see you and Jeff get married.” Diana replied with a smile: “You’ll be there, Grandpa, you’ll see us from a different seat.” I was and am proud of my niece’s faith. Her faith conviction did not minimize her pain of sadness and loss or mine. I share that moment with you to recall for us all that Christian funerals do not dismiss anyone’s pain. They bring us together to remember Jesus abides with us no matter where we may be.

Together we encourage each other to hope in the more substantial life Jesus promises and to embody his more substantial life the best we can, just as Frederick E. Rudin modeled it for his family, friends and his brother- and sister-Catholics. His life is changed not ended,/3/ and he taught you how to live our transformed life in Jesus so that you may teach each other and all you meet as Fred did.

1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Matthew 28.20.
3. Preface for Christian Death I,
Roman Missal.
Wiki-images of anastasis and of Grunewald's Resurrection are in the public domain.

No comments: