Remembering the souls of our loved ones
HOMILY FOR THE BEREAVEMENT MASS IN SAINT JOSEPH’S CHURCH, 6th NOVEMBER 2016
Sitting beside a lady recently after the funeral of a friend she turned to me and said ‘Frank, is there something at the other side’? Meaning of course the after life. My reply was very clearly ‘There better be or I have ben on the wrong bus for all of my life’. ‘ Is there an after life?’ you ask. ‘There is.’ I answer. Prove it, I cannot. I respond out of the gift of experience of those with whom I have journeyed in their dying and death and in the great gift of faith which springs hope; which springs Resurrection.
We gather this November evening as we honour, as we remember the souls of our loved ones. We gather in support of each other in our pain/loss in the midst of so many hearts that are broken. The loss in love is profoundly painful; the deepest pain of our human existence. It is in this place that brokenness and hope lie together; it is here that warmth and cold stand together. The emotions I feel – the emotions that are deeply numbed. It is in this deep place that we journey together; it is in this profound place that we connect for the first time with the ‘I’ with the ‘me’ the place of greatest authenticity, brokenness and hope.
The broken heart is one we all have experienced. None of us can get through life without our hearts been broken and what a pain that is. Grief breaks our hearts. The more profound and rich the love is the deeper the pain. Grief’s pain knows no bounds; it is sweeping at times horrid; at times overwhelming and at other times it brings comfort. Death itself is final. We never use this word anymore instead we speak of he/she passed over; he/ she expired; he/she is gone to the other side. Death in itself is final; the last breath; the lifeless body that once meant so much to us has now departed from us as we honour ‘the remains’.
In a quotation attributed to the poet Patrick Kavanagh we read:
‘Graveyard grass grows greenest. It is blest. And under it is not hate but only love - the roots have fed on its tears’.
Our grief is blest; truly blest as we have hope in God and God has great hope for and in us. The acute pain of grief that stings so deeply, profoundly when we grow tired of being held by it and gives way to at times a mere flash a moment of comfort.
This evening we gather in a shared experience; a shared comfort zone and above all a shared faith that speaks to us maybe very limply. Yet it speaks and we hear that ‘our God is not God of the dead but of the living; for to Him all people are in fact alive’. Lk20:38
We give thanks for the great gift of the Resurrection; the place where the souls of our loved ones are alive and truly at peace in the presence of our God in whom we hope; in our God who strengthens each of us at all times.
FRANK DOWNES O.P.