Homilies for Funerals
Introduction: Canon law-#1176 says that every baptized Catholic has a right to a funeral. I don’t know about you, but I bury far more non-practicing Catholics then I do practicing ones. Consequently, this is my time to minister to the second largest church in America and I try to do it well. Touch these people with the hand of God and you’ve won their hearts forever. I make it a point to discover as much about the unknown person as possible so that I can incorporate “some” of that material in my homily in order to personalize it somewhat. It’s important to the family and it should be important to us. And you will not hear me say “should” too often. Usually, they don’t want a full requiem mass, but merely a religious ceremony of some kind. That’s fine with me since it is really difficult to celebrate mass with a whole congregation of people who haven’t a clue about what’s going on, much less, how to respond.
I celebrate in the traditional black vestment(yes it is still very legal)! Somehow we must celebrate something that is both joyful, hope filled, and yet, painful and extremely difficult for most people to handle. To balance this paradox is our job and to do it well brings hope and consolation, as well as, an invitation to look beyond their loss into the real priorities of life–learning to love one another.
Homily: We gather here today to celebrate _______’s life! Through all the joys and sorrows in life this is probably the toughest to face. This is someone who has loved us. This is someone who has held or been held by us in unconditional love. And this is someone who is with the Lord now and forever and not with us. They will never again share their lives with us and any unspoken thoughts or words must carried in our hearts. To believe that they are with the Lord is hard for us to understand, but I believe the Lord when talking to the repentant thief on the cross he said,”this day you shall be with me in paradise!” I believe that and I want you to believe that! In fact I’m so convinced that I’ll try and prove it to you.
When my children’s mother died, for almost six months later she came to visit her kids trying to give them comfort. Trying to let them know that she was not dead and that she was in a place where she wanted to be–in glory. She was very happy. She no longer suffered with such horrible pain. They didn’t need to cry continually for her and to be glad that they had a new home with someone she loved. She would try to tell them that they must go on with their lives and try to be happy as well, knowing that one day they’ll all be together again.
Don’t be surprised if your loved one(put in their name) comes to you in a very special way when you least expect it. You may be standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes. You may be standing in front of the mirror shaving. You may be out in the garden pulling weeds. What you’re doing doesn’t matter, the fact that you are alone does. You will get a “sense” of them being near you. You may get a whiff of them. Evening in Paris was my mom’s favorite perfume. They may come to you in a dream. Somehow, if you are not able to get on with your life, they will visit you just to reassure you that the promises of Christ really are true.
MOM’S–(I use the Beatitudes gospel)I want to give to you a gift Monsignor James Church gave me when he celebrated my mom’s death with me. Terry, he said, “The Lord God sent His only Son into the world to know the love of a mother. And no finer mother could the Lord have had than the Blessed Virgin Mary. He knows your pain and loss and wants you to know that he understands. There is no other person in the whole world than our mothers we will ever be more closely connected to in our lives. To sever that connection in this life means that she will no longer be there to hold you, to comfort you, or just to tell you that you are loved. To lose that connection is to lose much. In life you loved her, now in glory, love her even more. She stands before God continually holding you up in prayer so that you will continue to be the best you can possibly be for this world. On Nov 2nd every year, is her day! All souls Day is for the saints in our lives. You now have your own personal saint in heaven. Celebrate that fact and know one day she’ll hold you in her arms once more and tell you how much you are loved by her and by God.
CHILDREN & THOSE TOO YOUNG TO DIE–(I use the Lazarus is dead gospel). This is a gospel about anger towards the Lord. Martha is really angry at the Lord, who was only two miles away. He didn’t come when he was called upon. But the Lord turns that anger into understanding and acceptance. And that’s what we are called to do as well. Give permission to the family to be angry at God and then try and bring them to where Martha ends up–in understanding and acceptance that God needed them more than we did.
This is a Gospel about anger! Martha wasn’t being “nice” to the Lord! She was really angry and she let him know. “Lord ‘if’ you had been here Lazarus would never have died!” It’s like saying “where have you been?” You have every right to be angry that this child or this person has died. Be angry with God! Get good and angry with Him. He can take it! But in your anger know that if (this person) could come back and make all of this hurt go away (they) wouldn’t. They are in a place where they want to be. They are in a place promised them by the Lord. Jesus said, “where I am going, you will follow. Do you not believe that my Father has a mansion with many rooms in it?” And one of them has your name written across the door. In this place there is no more disease. There is no more pain. There is no more tears to wipe away. This is glory! And though you are in pain, that pain will ease with time and you will go on living out the rest of your life. Oh, you will never forget (the name). Those memories of (name) will always be a part of who you are. And now you will come to realize that the really important things in life are not the wealth we possess or the new cars we drive. Nor the nice houses we live in, but how much we truly loved someone. That’s following the Lord’s second command “To love one another as you love yourself!” Now do you understand what it means to be more tolerant of others. Now do you understand the power of loving someone. Now do you understand what is important in this life and what is not! The most powerful recommendation to God for someone you loved is this–Lord God I loved this person, as did we all, now you love them as well.
When my sister was dying in bed and I knelt down to pray one more time over her, pleading with God to give me her pain, give me her death, anything but letting this agony go on any longer I heard a small voice say to me, “And now you know why men make war. It is much easier to hate someone than it is to love them!” In glory you have a saint before God. Use them! Whenever I must minister to a family that has lost a child, lost a father or mother, I call upon my saints standing before the Lord to help this family get through this gut wrenching time and to learn the lesson of the Lord. Nothing is more important than that–learn what it means to love one another. Let us pray.
Don’t go away. I have much more to say!