Donald W. Farley funeral (02 Mar 2010)
Is 25. 6a, 7-9; Ps 23; 1Jn 3. 1-2; Jn 12. 23-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I want to repeat to all the grandchildren what I shared Sunday with Elise and Nora. Sadness at not having your grandfather in your lives as you did is a heavy thing. Heavy sadness affects us in different ways. Sometimes we hold it in, thinking we are getting over it. Holding sadness inside does not help us. I learned that when my grandmother died. I learned it is important to let parents and other adults we trust know we are sad and how it feels. Saying that out loud helps us get through our sadness. It is also the beginning of feeling grandpa’s presence in real and new ways, something our Catholic faith reminds us often because we can forget that so easily, no matter our ages.
Kathleen, you and Don have been part of this community for over 40 years. Today the Catholic church and Gesu Parish bid farewell to one of theirs. Yet our farewell is not a goodbye. Our word farewell means to go safely. The church has understood that about dying. The last eucharist a person receives in life is called viaticum, Latin for “provision for the journey.” Humans journey from the human realm to the realm of God; as the Body and Blood of our Messiah Jesus nourishes us in life, so it accompanies us to join the life of the saints and all the faithful departed. God provides a feast for us as we make our pilgrim way to the fulness of life.
Don was a person whose journey to the promised life is as he lived. He was faithful: faithful to his spouse and children, with whom he loved to be together, as you reminded me, Kathleen. He was dedicated to you, balancing family and work, no easy task, and many easily lose that balance. Don exercised humility, which allowed him to be ever ready to help others and quick to serve. Don exercised all these without complaining. His education at John Carroll University surely set Don on this trajectory in life. His dedication to the practice of law enhanced it.
Kathleen gave a gift to Don, a picture of St. Thomas More. Don seemed to take to heart, to take as his model St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers, statesmen and even families. Thomas was faithful to the Church, to the civil law of England and to his monarch, even when they disagreed. “A man for all seasons” reflected a human kaleidoscope of author, humanist, statesman, family man and Catholic saint.1 He remains a model of integrity, so needed today.
“People of integrity,” who point beyond worldly limitations and refuse to become totally absorbed by the things of the world, helps us appreciate the phrase children of God. We are all challenged to live lives of integrity and humble service, and at the same time we are what we are called to be and strive to live ever more clearly. Don knew that in his bones, and it may be his most important legacy to you, his family, and all who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing him. Jesus himself taught this, and he taught us through Don’s fidelity to his Messiah and Lord.
Using the image of a grain of wheat Jesus taught that he and his disciples in every age are to point beyond themselves to something greater. Seed and ripe plant are both powerfully vivid and organic. I’d like us also to notice another image, flowing from the shape of the gospel you chose for Don’s funeral mass. I call it a human hinge.
People wanted to meet Jesus. They were Gentiles, suggesting that Jesus and his teaching and living was attractive to non-Jews. They sought a go-between, an ancient way of meeting another or gaining help. We know it today in our phrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” Philip told Andrew the desire of the strangers, and Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Andrew and Philip told each other something we shall never know, but it’s result we know: they relayed the request to Jesus. His response contained the truth that his death and resurrection would make available to all what Andrew and Philip and all the disciples were learning firsthand.
Nestled in that truth lay another: other faithful people would continue to make available to people seeking meaning in life the very source of meaning and life, our risen Messiah Jesus. Don intuited both truths and chose to live the second as best he could. Don was your hinge connecting you to Jesus, allowing your lives to turn about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. That truth imparted the passion with which Don lived, and shaped him to be the genuine man you knew as brother, husband, father, grandfather, colleague and friend.
This truth informs the phrase that means so much yet often slighted: lay down one’s life.2 Loving family men and dedicated workers do that all the time. It is the purpose for which God created them and all friends of Jesus. St. Thomas More put well that humans share this purpose, and that it has a divine and a human side:
“If any man marvel that God made all His creatures such as they should always need aid of His grace, let him know that God did it out of His double goodness. First, to keep them from pride by causing them to perceive their feebleness, and to call upon Him; and secondly to do His creatures honor and comfort.”3
Don Farley appreciated grace for what it is, God’s life, and allowed God’s life to shape his. As he travels safely to his and our true destiny remember that he has a new purpose to do you “honor and comfort.” Today he intercedes for you with a transformed fidelity and a new service to introduce you to Jesus. Don’s intercession with the saints gives you fresh hope that we will be reunited with him to behold [God] as [God] is. Your fresh hope will help you to be human hinges for others who long to see Jesus, as Don was for you and will inspire you for years to come.
- 1520 marks the earliest use of the phrase by a contemporary of St. Thomas More.
- Found on the lips of Jesus in John 10, 13, 15 and 1John 3.16. The final two citations are most apt for contemporary disciples of Jesus.
- St. Thomas More Society, San Diego, California, links to this and other quotations of their patron.