Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday word, 12 Feb 2010

William Muldoon funeral (12 Feb 2010)

Eccl 3. 1-14; Ps 23; Rv 14. 13; Mt 11. 25-30

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Familiar and Friendly

On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and sympathy to Mark and Mary Ellen at the death of your brother. I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to, Lorraine, at the passing of your dear spouse; and to you, Matt, Tim, Chris and Pam, at the death of your father. Not having your husband and father in your lives is very, very difficult to bear. Yet, all of us are here 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 and your children grieve well. You will help each other experience Bill’s presence in real and new ways.

We mourn Bill’s absence. I believe that we mourn also because we long to enjoy the “realms of clearer light”1 to which our faith points us and which Bill begins to enjoy. Faith does not insulate us from life’s pains—Bill’s passing is one we help you shoulder today. Our faith, which is no less the faith of Jesus, reassures us to walk forward even though life limits the light we see now. Jesus is our light, and you know that because your husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend reflected Jesus to you so well.

You witnessed his strong faith, and you saw its effects: it contributed greatly to the solid person Bill was. Not only you witnessed faith’s effects on him; so did many others. When people give themselves wholeheartedly to their faith-relationship with God, who Jesus revealed clearly in himself and allows us to do by the power of their Spirit, they make the foreign familiar and the familiar friendly.2

Making the foreign familiar and the familiar friendly describes Bill’s thoughtful, not preachy, joyful manner. His manner of living made life attractive to you and many beyond your family. Bill found good in everyone and everything, as you reminded me, Lorraine. That harmonizes with the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who taught that God—the good—works in all things:God dwells in creatures, in the elements, giving them being...and so in me, giving me being, animating me, giving me sensation and making me to understand; …[and] making a temple of me, being created to the likeness and image of [God].3

Ignatian spirituality fuels this parish, one reason, Lorraine, why you and Bill were so content at Gesu. It also helps you and us appreciate Bill’s positive attitude and his enjoyment of life and deep respect for people. Bill’s respect for others and his instinct that people have good in them also reminds us of Jesus. Our memory of Bill reminds us as well that a positive attitude, deep respect for people and savoring life as a gift from God are good works in themselves.

Bill took to heart that our works affect others. He taught by example. Tim, you elaborated that your father’s example, specifically, respect for family, for others and to work with energy in an uncomplaining way, taught you and your brothers and your sons how to be men in today’s world. You reminded me of my father, who shared your dad’s convictions.

Both of them embodied devotion. Devotion is not mere piety; devotion is self-gift. Jesus is our model and pattern of devotion. We have been blessed to have had fathers who will always be for us icons of strong, affectionate disciples of Jesus in our contemporary world.

I want to conclude by addressing what I hope are words of comfort to you, Lorraine, and to your children and theirs in your sadness. Lorraine, you shared with me that you and Bill worked in the same department at The Plain Dealer years ago. You and Bill will always be in the same department, not of a newspaper but of the Catholic life. That department I call “veteran Catholics.” The word veteran often first evokes a person of long military service. However, it describes any one of long experience in a skill or art. You and Bill made one life together and allowed yourselves to be shaped by the faith of Jesus and your love for each other and for your children and grandchildren, your friends and those in need. Living in the department of “veteran Catholics” and thriving on it gave Bill and will continue to give you, Lorraine, a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. That foretaste is the comfort and the tranquility of soul Jesus promises all who draw near to him.

Matt, you mentioned an upcoming wedding for one of your children. Thinking of it makes Bill’s absence more sharply felt. At the beginning of my homily I said you all will experience Bill’s presence in real and new ways. I desired that when my Dad died, and a future wedding in my family was involved. My Dad told my niece that he was sorry he would not be able to see her marry the following year. Diana replied without missing a beat, “You’ll be there, Grandpa, you’ll just be in a different seat.”

Diana’s faith-filled response began to work in me. I was not aware for many months that her faith stirred mine to pray to be alert to the new presence of my father Jesus desired to offer me. Diana’s wedding felt different without my father physically present; yet, it did not feel as empty as I feared it might. So be alert to the real and new presence each of you will experience of your brother, your husband, your father, your grandfather, your friend. The sadness of death does give way to the bright promise of everlasting life,4 which we experience in real even though partial ways during our lifetimes.

How? It’s a grace one asks to enjoy. Bill will help you. William Muldoon, “Advocate for Cleveland,” has completed his time with you and all of us fortunate to have known him. Today, Bill has an even greater mission: to advocate for you until Jesus returns in glory to reunite you with Bill and with all who have gone before us with faith and hope in eternal life.

Bill’s legacy of faith belongs to you more than to savor. Bill’s legacy of faith belongs to you to enact: seek the good in all people; return often to the faith of Jesus he modeled for you; and allow your lives to teach by example, that standard of quiet eloquence of youthful and veteran Catholics alike.


  1. From verse 4 of We Walk By Faith, the opening song chosen by Bill’s family for his funeral mass.
  2. For that phrase, I am indebted to Luke Timothy Johnson, my professor of NT Interpretation. He used in lectures about the action of Jesus and of the early Christians. It remains apt for Christians today.
  3. Spiritual Exercises, [235].
  4. Preface of the Dead I, Roman Missal.
Wiki-image of imagining the Resurrection is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Denis Barthel is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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