Homily for Bereavement Mass
HOMILY FOR BEREAVEMENT MASS IN ST. JOSEPH’S CHURCH, O'CONNELL AVE., 5TH NOVEMBER 2017.
We gather this November evening to remember with respect; love and dignity our loved ones who have died. We do so before and in the presence of God. We remember them as our 1st reading says ‘to the one God who created us all’ Mal 2:10. We remember them in faith; in the gift of the Mass which we now celebrate both for them and for ourselves.
This evening is one of the most poignant evenings and celebrations in our parish annually. We remember 75 people who have died. We ask God to bless them with eternal light and happiness. We honour the families/religious communities of those who have died. There is a beautiful hymn for the feast of the Holy Souls which begins with the words:
‘Remember those O Lord who in your peace have died’.
That time and journey of dying; that special moment of death which often has come and gone as we keep vigil with our loved ones without our noticing, Life becomes death; breath is no more.
So we enter the place of initial relief especially if there has been a long illness; yet we also enter into the depths of our hearts the land of grief which is poignant; powerful and absolutely beyond words. Grief takes hold of us at every level of our being. It is the most powerful pain- the losing, the surrendering of the one who has loved us and whom we have loved, the dying, the death, the tomb and the powerful aftermath. Yet, we surrender them to the God who created us all; we surrender them to the loving embrace of God.
They in their turn thank God for us. Saint Paul puts it powerfully in our second reading ‘We continually thank God for you’ 1Thess 2:13. And so our loved ones do in gratitude for our care; our fidelity; for our weak moments; for our love as we journeyed together the powerful path of life. The psalmist speaks to us ‘You will show me the path of life’ Psalm 15 which together we travelled into unknown places medically; emotionally and into unknown places where we were supported by those who cared for us. The land of grief which is dark; consuming; pain filled and indeed all powerful – we understand not- as words never ever adequately explain it. The nearest we come to it is to the land of the broken heart. It is here that Jesus waits for us; it is here that Jesus is present to us. It is here that Jesus heals us. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’. Jn 14:1
Edith Stein a Jewess who converted to Catholicism and who subsequently became a Carmelite nun ended her life with thousands more in the deathly camp of Auschwitz. It was in this deathly place where innocent people were horrendously oppressed by their captors who did everything to break their human spirits before death met darkness. She, in the gift of both her faith and her experience and above all out of the abundance and richness of God’s great love shares with us:
‘And when night comes, and retrospect shows that everything is patchwork and much which one had planted is left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God’s hands and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life’.
So let us leave everything without exception – all the emotions; all the self analysis; all the blame; all the if onlys before our Loving God. In doing so we are brought to a place of deeper healing and inner freedom
Our psalm for this evening confirms the above quotation. ‘Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. As a child rests in its mother’s arms even so my soul’. Ps 130.
Gradually, the more we welcome our pain and grief in God’s name; the powerful sting gradually gives way – slowly, simply to a peace; a peace of soul where all consolation rests; where pain gives way to the beauty of a smile; where consolation reigns and where Christian hope call us forth yet once again.
The hymn for All Souls ends with the poignant words:
‘For them we humbly pray; perfect them in your love, O may we share eternal day with them in Heaven above’.
May the souls of all our departed brothers and sisters rest gently and peacefully in the eternal embrace of God.
Frank DOWNES O.P.