As a priest there are many things to do in a given day. Say your prayers, answer emails, make phone calls, celebrate Mass, check in at the office, the school, play 18 holes of golf, say some more prayers. All in a day, not necessarily in that order, but you get the idea. One real privilege of the priesthood is being able to be there for family and friends in their time of need. Certainly one of those moments is as life comes to an end. Death is one of those things that’s going to happen to all of us and yet even if we know it is coming it still surprises us and can take a real toll. A Catholic funeral is a beautiful gift that offers closure and peace as the deceased are covered with grace upon grace. In the Mass of Christian Burial there is an allowance for individuals to shape some of the liturgy according to their personal desires. In the 80 or so funerals that I have presided at in my priesthood our Gospel from today has been picked at least 50 percent of the time.
For many of us death has a way of troubling our hearts. The loss of one we love, the finality of never being able to be with them again for holidays or family functions is something that can be difficult beyond words. Finding some sort of closure or peace in moving forward seems, especially at first, almost like too much to ask. Yet, it is our faith in Jesus Christ who has gone before us, who has prepared a place for us that we take our consolation. If we live out our days devoted to him now, in service to his church, then surely the transition from this life to the next is one that is simply an elevation of all the good things we’ve experienced here as reminders of who he is, except after death the veil is lifted and we are with the Son as the Father is in the Son and nothing is hidden but all is realized. There are some beautiful souls who embody this, who get this even while they are still on earth. I had the honor of bringing communion to one of our sick parishioners just last week who was near death and in our conversation as she received Him in the Eucharist Jesus is stuck on me and I love Him so much. She recalled a time she visited her Jewish cardiologist and when he asked her about her thoughts on dying she said, I couldn’t be more excited, to which he responded that’s a FIRST. Her explicit certainty in her Savior gave testimony to the promise of Jesus that He has gone before us to prepare a place for us and that if we believe in Him and his words we have nothing to fear, but can have the strength to endure our cross in union with His. Fr. James Brooks a priest of the archdiocese and a Son of Dayton recently died after a bout with cancer and some of his last words were—Jesus is real, I’m almost there. This is what is about.
Jesus says in our Gospel Where I am>>>you also will be. Being with Jesus in the here and now prepares for us for the now and then. We might ask like Thomas, Jesus where are you going, where are you leading me? The answer is always to live faith, to enter into hope, and to experience a love that moves beyond ourselves. Jesus you are the way, the life, and the truth. Help me to live my life in truth, all the way all my days for your glory until we meet face to face in the place you have prepared for us.