Ruth Mannion funeral (14 Jan 2011)
Sir 26.1-4, 13-18; Ps 23; Rm 5. 5-11; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living the Legacy
On behalf of Gesu Parish, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Robert, at the passing of your beloved spouse; and to you, Michael, Robert Jr., John, Mary Lou, Kay and Peggy at the passing of your dear mother. Not having your spouse and mother in your lives is very hard. We have gathered 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 Ruth’s presence in real and new ways.
I also extend our prayers and sympathy to your children. It is hard for you, too, to let go of your grandma. Your parents will help you to do that, hard as it is. Let them know when you need help to let go of grandma.
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 Ruth Mannion.1
I’m grateful to Bobby, Erik and Judy for your words of remembrance. Your words help us connect Ruth with the mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising we celebrate. I want to reflect briefly with you on the scriptures her family chose for Ruth’s funeral mass.
Earlier this week, Kay, Michael and Peggy emphasized to me something I want to repeat. They told me their mother spent her life taking care of them and their father. She rejoiced in practicing her love. Putting love into practice is our Christian life. Indeed, Jesus desires each of us to put our faith into practice and become the person he created each of us to be.
Some people hear the word faith and equate faith with esoteric or pious behavior. Faith is a relationship with God and through God with others. It is practical; it shapes lives and proves character, as St. Paul reminded us. The Book of Sirach described faith as relationships and their effects. The feature of faith-relationships is that people are blessed by God and God desires people to be blessings for others. A spouse is the choicest of blessings, as we heard.
Choicest blessings register in many ways: happiness, at peace, full of life, contentment, tender care. You described your mother blessed you by smiling on you as well as waiting for you and helping you. Those blessings and more to which Ruth gave her personal stamp shaped your lives, forming you and helping you be in the world as the individuals Jesus has created and redeemed. The Rite of Marriage recalls that when it blesses a bride: May she always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures.2 Our vocations empower us to make past examples present.
Ruth fulfilled her vocation, which you summarized well: “Mom taught us what love is about.” Christian love is not mere emotion. Christian love is characterized by actions, and you elaborated some of mother’s: accepting; forgiving; not showing harsh feelings; and never judging but finding the good in others. Finding the good in others, you described to me, as one of your mom’s “strongest qualities.” If you, Robert, and your children and grandchildren, and Ruth’s neighbors, friends and brother- & sister-parishioners, want to appreciate Christian love in concrete ways, recall your spouse, your mother, your grandmother, your friend and how she negotiated life’s routine moments as well as its challenges.
I recommend that because as I pondered the picture painted of Ruth for me, I could not help seeing my own mother, who died after living in much the same ways. You are blessed to have been raised by your mother and to have enjoyed your grandmother and friend. Remember that she has been an incarnation of Christian love for you both to appreciate and to imitate.
Imitate her ways of making each moment for you important, of making you feel you were the center of her life. Practicing love that way is her legacy to you. You will honor her well by keeping alive her legacy of living Christian love.
As the church mourns with you, it sadly bids farewell to one of hers. It joins your struggle to let go and return Ruth to our Creator and Redeemer. I pray her new and greater mission will console you often. Today in the communion of saints you have another advocate to intercede for you so that you may come to see more clearly your vocation, the vocation your mother and spouse showed you: to live in ways so that others will be more aware of and will experience that Jesus lives and daily shows us the way to God, whom he called his dear Father.
- Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, #27.
- Rite of Marriage, Nuptial Blessing, #33.