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/
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.
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.
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/
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.
1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
2. Matthew 28.20.
3. Preface for Christian Death I, Roman Missal.