Francis & Judith Dobscha funeral (23 Oct 2010)
Eccl 3. 1-14; Ps ; Rm 8.32-35, 37-39; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend my prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Fran Jr. and Steve, at the passing of your parents, Fran and Judy. I shared with Steve when he told me your mom died soon after your dad that their double loss will deeply affect you in unpredictable ways. Your support of them and presence to them will in future allow you to draw consolation. Having recently buried my mom after often being with her during her Alzheimer’s, I know that is so. Yet my consolation, like yours, does not shoulder my grief for me. I need support and continue to need it. “Prayerful support” is no empty phrase.
I extend the same prayerful support to Herman, Fran’s brother. As you bury Fran, you bury part of yourself, too, in an equally real way yet different from Steve and Fran. Burying one dear to us does brings us face to face with our limited, frail humanity. Burying one dear to us also invites us to enter the great reversal, which we name the paschal mystery. It invites us to do that with courage.
I also extend our prayers and support to Michael and Katie. It’s difficult for you, too, to let go of your grandparents. Your parents will help you do that, hard as it is. Let them know when you need help to let go of them. Letting go does not mean forgetting and losing. You will grow with many memories of your grandparents and their love for you.
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 the lives of Fran and Judy Dobscha.1 I want to reflect briefly with you all on the scriptures Fran and Judy’s family chose for their funeral.
I’ve had you in mind these days, esp. this week while I was at the Priests’ Convocation. These days have been exhausting for you. In hospitals time moves like a glacier for patients and family and friends. When progress eludes us, frustration mounts and everything feels futile. This turning point does not make futility evaporate. The Book of Ecclesiastes long ago testified to that. In words following its very familiar ones about the futility of time, we heard these: God has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without humans’ ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. The season of death has visited spouses who brought forth the other’s best and complimented each other very well. That season challenges you to place them into God’s heart and carve a new place for them in your hearts.
As you do that you will continue to live like them: for Fran Judy and their sons were the center of his life; for Judy Fran and their sons were her most elegant treasures. Fran and Steve, your dad raised you has Catholics with the support of your mom; and your mom was for you in a big way. Living like them means you will continue their legacy in your ways with your families and friends. Our Catholic connection with the great reversal of God raising Jesus from death by their Spirit opens onto something even greater than continuing the legacy of your parents. I grew anxious wondering how I might give words to that. Your mother gave me words. Describing her dedication to you, Steve and Fran, your mom had said: “I would come out of a coma for my boys.”
Beyond expressing her steadfast love for her sons, Judy gave words to the heart of our faith, namely the great reversal of God raising Jesus from death to indestructible life as Lord. The life of our risen Lord is also ours. Not fully now yet real, touching us and touched by us in the love of husband and wife, the love of parents for children and children for parents and each other, the love individuals make real each day.
The great reversal, which indeed is beyond us, Jesus manifested in many ways before being raised from the dead. God sharing our human nature in Jesus; Jesus revealing God in the person and in each action of Jesus; Jesus’ special fondness and concern for the least; for those on life’s margins; for the disfigured, the lame, the deaf, the infirm; for sinners.
Your parents, your brother and sister-in-law, your friends lived the great reversal in their marriage. Fran was quiet, which registered as private, as organized, the organized thinking of an engineer, as a reader of novels of adventure and suspense and as a proud grandfather. Judy was fond of company. It registered as reaching out to others; volunteering at her library; entertaining and her eye for design shaped the ambience as well as her appearance; and all crowned with love, which blossomed largely because of her close bond with her mother.
Complimenting each other was for them, as for all spouses powerfully hinted at the great reversal we call the paschal mystery. Their self-sacrifice for you, their sons, hints more powerfully. What we may never know this side of heaven revealed the great reversal to them, making it available to you and others without [our] ever discovering: how they forgave one another; not only for any wrong or any infelicitous remark or any unfeeling gesture. How Fran and Judy accepted the limitations and the strengths of each other as each one was outlines in bold the great reversal of the paschal mystery.
Fran and Judy handed themselves over to each other in loving faith and faithful love. More than complimenting each other’s personal qualities, their daily uniting in loving faith and faithful love mirrored the outpouring of divine love as the Father of Jesus handed...over [Jesus] the Son for us all. Nothing, St. Paul reminded us, can outdo or overcome that love.
We may be tempted to feel and think otherwise. The whirlwind of grief batters us and sucks into the darkness of loss. I was battered and blinded when my father died and again as I let go of my mother. So were the disciples even before Jesus’ was arrested and killed! Jesus encouraged them not to be faith-troubled—which is not the same as troubled by grief, even though that affects our faith.
Jesus reminded disciples then and us now and urged them, and urges us: You have faith in God; have faith also in me. Jesus helps us disciples in our grief to recall how God has touched us through the great reversal God works in us through my parents, through Fran and Judy, your parents, your grandparents, your brother and sister-in-law, and your friends. They allowed God’s life to flow through them for each other and for you. Being more aware of God’s life flowing through them for you daily previews God’s great reversal continuing to happen in you.
The season of death claims their presence with you. Fran and Judy’s physical absence does not destroy your bonds with them. The great reversal we name the paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising opens onto another season, the communion of saints. Our union as God’s saints is timeless: those who died in Jesus; we who live and abide in Jesus; as well as those yet to be born and behold the variety of God’s activity are truly one, without [our] ever discovering how.
In this new season of eternal life, in which we share impartially now, you enjoy two more saints interceding for you to help you persevere and discover the new ways your parents, your grandparents, your brother and sister-in-law, your friends will be present to you, and how you will extend their legacy and grow as more compassionate disciples of the great reversal of God in Jesus by their Spirit in and through you. Their great reversal is beyond us—we name it mystery. Yet their great reversal has touched you through Fran and Judy, and through them you have touched it and by their intercession you will touch it every day.
- Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, #27.