November 18, 2018 / All Souls- Bereavement Mass / •Daniel 12:1-3 • Psalm 16 • Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 • +Mark 13:24-32
[__01__] Life is short.
Life is both short and sweet and something to be cherished protected, treasured.
I learned this profession of faith that life is short from my grandmother and grandfather. While they also lived to an elderly age, life was short – to them.
I say this because after my grandmother and grandfather arrived in the United States around 1920.
Life was short and also simple to them. They did not try to extend themselves – nor could they have – extended themselves with trips back to Ireland. They did not travel back to Ireland. Well, there was 1 exceptional transatlantic journey which I would also like to refer to … in a few moments.
[__02__] They knew that life was short, exciting – unpredictable – at times, but short.
They treasured – gave thanks – for their lives here in the United States and did not search for itineraries. They stayed in touch. They wrote letters. They stayed here. Life is short.
[__03__] When we perceive that some interval or hour is short, abbreviated or about to come to an end soon, we want to savor the time, protect the time, cherish the time.
Isn’t this protecting and cherishing often the attitude of parents toward their children, toward the youth and young age of their children.
Life and childhood are short.
[__04__] But, knowing that life is short, we are also – always – every called to prepare for the next stage for what and who is coming next in our lives.
The Lord in Gospel communicates this brevity and his arrival in the Gospel today – that he is coming next in our lives that we are called to prepare ourselves to meet him…and that he – and his love are both now and next for us:
“Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13: ___)
So, we are called not only to prepare for tomorrow, to prepare for guests on Thanksgiving Day and/or the long weekend, to prepare for the next snowstorm (I need snow tires!), but also to prepare ourselves in attitude to meet Jesus at the end of our lives.
Life is short and we can prepare ourselves by praying not about how we are to live in the future, but how we are to live right now in the present. Life is short. Whom I called to be charitable, to be faithful, to be forgiving?
We are called to pray that we will have the great fortitude and good fortune to carry this out and to pray for our loved ones who have died, to pray and hope that we will be reunited with them.
[__05__] In July of 1979, my family and I went to JFK, Kennedy Airport, to be with my grandmother & grandfather and uncle who were at the time flying back to Ireland, to the auld sod, to see their siblings, their nieces and nephews, who lived in northwestern Ireland, in Donegal.
That journey to JFK was my first exposure to anything INTERNATIONAL. I’d been in an airport once before but that was DOMESTIC and it was Newark airport.
Clearly, JFK and going overseas was a bigger deal, more regulations – passports – and being there hours and hours ahead of time, although compared to today, JFK in ’79 was less regulated than the beach badges at the Jersey Shore.
But, there were rules and one of these rules – the reason we were there – was the special touch and tenderness of seeing someone off, of the send-off.
We – on our own – had arrived at Kennedy Airport from from New Jersey, and my grandparents had arrived at Kennedy from the Bronx. We had not gone there to give them a ride (UBER or LYFT), just to see them off, to send them off.
But also to remember that we would see them again ….
That is another rule of the send-off. THE REUNION.
[__06__] We rejoice at the send off also with the expectation that we would see our loved ones again.
I admit this is an imperfect analogy to the profound experience of separation when someone has passed from this world.
Yet, we also grieve and celebrate the send off ritual of a Funeral Mass because we believe that we shall see our beloved mother or wife, husband or father, sister or brother – friend – again.
[__07__] And, I know from my conversations with many of you how much devotion, effort, care respect you showed to your loved ones during their lives and during their time of need and, perhaps, infirmity.
You demonstrated this respect for life because you know that you would see them again.
[__08__] The send off is also a call to shelter, intimacy, togetherness. Life is short. Jesus indicated and echoed this hope to his disciples in the Gospel of John Chapter 14: “In my Fathers house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go and prepare a place for you. And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself.”
When the disciples first heard these words – at the Last Supper – at the “biblical send off of the Last Supper”, they did not quite understand it, they were growing into it. We are also growing into it.
[__09_] Your presence – our presence – when someone dies - are needed not only for the person being sent, for the person being mourned… but also to prepare all of us for our
next place, our heavenly home, to visit that place in our prayers in church and at home, so that we may be sent, to continue our journey, to continue our life. Life may be short, but our hope of eternal life is long.