Robert Blazunas funeral (25 Jan 2010)
Wis 3. 1-9; Resp 2Tm 2; Rm 8. 14-23; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Anna, at the passing of your loving son, and to Agnes at the passing of your dear spouse. I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Maggie, Peter, Frank and Lizzie. Not having your son, husband and father in your lives is very, very difficult to bear. Yet, all of us are here to for you: to help you and each other to be more courageous than grief is sharp. Your confidence in our risen Messiah will help you grieve well. You will help each other experience Bob’s presence in real and new ways.
I also extend our prayers and sympathy to Bob’s coworkers and particularly to the Knights of Columbus and your families. You, too, are challenged to let go of Bob. It’s a steep challenge, and with Bob in your hearts and minds you’ll rise to this human, Catholic challenge you Knights never fear to undertake.
Joining all of you today the Catholic church, Gesu Parish and the Knights of Columbus bid farewell to one of theirs. 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 Robert Phillip Blazunas.1
I’m grateful to Mary Cecilia and to Joe for your words of remembrance. Your words help us connect Bob with the mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising we celebrate here. I want to reflect briefly with you on the scriptures Bob’s family chose for his funeral mass.
Devoted, loving, steadfast, forgiving, respectful and respected, a person who adapted easily: that’s how you summarized your spouse and your father to me. Qualities he lavished on you, and qualities he shared with others. Lizzie recalled one of her Dad’s phrases, and it allows me to say that. Bob was fond of saying: “Don’t assume, always do your research.” Most conducive for Bob to share his gifts was being a Knight of Columbus. I did my research to share this history with you.
The Knights [were] formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works.2
Bob lived this history in his time and place. A history that began because of difficult need blossomed from charity beginning at home to charity and service being one’s home.
Conducive is the operative word. Jesus creates and redeems us and invites us into a more intimate friendship with him. We discover our obstacles, and by personal desire strengthened by divine grace, we do not become other than the people Jesus created and redeemed. Instead, we redirect our loyalties in ways which cooperate with the grace Jesus lavishes on us. The story of redirected loyalties is the story the Book of Wisdom recalls for us today: Those who trust in [the Lord] shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect.
The Book of Wisdom reminds us that grace and mercy are not ideals but divinely human virtues our Lord calls us to practice. Bob practiced them well, beginning with his family and with others. Peter recalled this made his dad the Rock his family could rely on and did. (By the way, Peter, Rock is what Jesus called Peter; I think your dad would echo that.) The image of sparks in the Book of Wisdom reminded you all of your dad’s activity. Not only did you notice it; motion and control leader, Parker Hannifin, did, too, awarding Bob its Constant Motion Award. You and I know Bob was not only worthy of the award; Bob is worthy of [God].
Worthy of God does not mean that we earn God’s love. Bob knew God’s gracious love, and he let it spill over on to you and others through him. Worthy of God is an opportunity to be compassionate, and Bob was always eager to discern and enact opportunities. Compassion, as you reminded me, means “feeling with.” Compassion is unseen unless expressed in word or deed. Compassion is our Christian opportunity, and I venture it’s our nearest experience of glory, the glory St. Paul reminded us is Jesus’ Spirit. The redemption of our bodies St. Paul sought to convey completes our new relationship to God by the Spirit in Jesus, whose sufferings and glory we share.
You and I share a felt knowledge of that. Like your husband and father, my father’s final illness was nearly as long as Bob’s. My sister and our mother watched and fed my dad, and finally accepted that his healing was not going to be a recovery but the redemption of his body in that sainted relationship to which we are called. One of the prayers for pastoral care of the sick I’d share with Bob put it this way:
May all who suffer pain, illness, or disease realize they have been chosen to be saints and know...they are joined to Christ by his suffering for the salvation of the world.3
For the salvation of the world was not too big for Bob, whose other motto was, “No try; only do.” His maxim expressed Bob’s character: resolute and steadfast. Being part of the salvation of the world fit Bob’s desire to concentrate on the journey more than the destination, exactly what Jesus encouraged Thomas, as we heard in the gospel.
Along his journey Bob was for you, his wife and children, your “advisor,” helping you “sort through” challenges in order to discern opportunities. Advisors can be teachers, and Bob taught you well because you often did not know you were learning. We learn best when we’re not aware we are learning. What you always knew was your spouse’s and dad’s and son’s unconditional love and pride in you. From cooking and packing your lunches to seeing you enjoyed Catholic educations to helping you begin lives of your own, Bob lovingly taught you that living for others is a fulfilling, Catholic life.
You learned that well. You were so good to your spouse and your dad in the hospital! You also learned there that living for others catches others. People who no longer directly cared for Bob at University Hospital cared enough to stop by to see him and say hello. Even the ward-clerks knew Bob. Opportunities to care seemed to blossom wherever Bob was.
Ever alert for opportunities—even in dark times—Bob enjoys Jesus completing what Bob faithfully began. All of us will be reunited again with Bob when Jesus returns in his promised glory. Jesus’ glory is more than how he will return. Jesus’ glory is our promised future, as it was and is Bob’s. Now he realizes his share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. From family and friends to coworkers to Brother Knights to Catholic companions to the most vulnerable among us: Bob has not only taught us Jesus’ promised glory begins in compassion, Bob modeled it for us so we may follow his example.
- Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.
- “Learn About Us” at the Knights of Columbus website.
- Pastoral Care of the Sick, #60.