June 12, 2015
I will be delivering the following homily today at the funeral of Mary Lyons, my mother-in-law.
May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.
Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything, and that Jesus prepares a place for people of faith. The time has come for us to commend Mary to the Lord after spending eighty-nine years on this earth.
On behalf of Fr. Jim, Fr. John, Fr. Jerry, and everyone at St. Pius X Parish, I extend our sympathy to daughters Terry, Barb, Maureen, and Carol, daughter-in-law Jeanne, and everyone who loved Mary, and assure you of our prayerful support.
I have been to many funerals over the years. After getting dressed, I always check with Carol to make sure I look OK. Thirty-two years of marriage have taught me that getting her approval is a good thing.
This is the first time I can remember dressing to impress the deceased. I bought a new suit, shirt, and belt. I purchased a pink tie that I will wear once. I polished my shoes. I took no chances.
I have this nightmare about meeting St. Peter at the gates of heaven on Judgment Day and having Mary in the background saying, “Ask him what he wore to my funeral.”
As Maureen mentioned in her eulogy, Mary always wanted to look nice, and wanted all of her family to look nice as well.
I had a great conversation with Mary last week. We talked about a variety of things.
She said, “I have been a bit controlling at times, haven’t I?”
Talk about a loaded question! I took the safe road and responded, “No, Mary, not at all…”
“Well, I know I have been,” she said.
Since she had opened the door about being controlling, I kidded her about the funeral plan she had written up a few years back. At the bottom of the sheet, she had written, Make sure the grandsons wear shirts and ties. No jeans.
I reminded her that she had written that, and told her, “You know you can’t control everything, Mary.”
She laughed at herself and said, “Isn’t that silly? No, I can’t control that, can I?”
Then she added, “But it would be nice if they were in a shirt and tie.”
We heard in John’s Gospel: “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
The grain of wheat has died, but look at the fruit that has been produced. Look at the legacy she has left behind – the 5 children, 20 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren that she loved so much.
Mary lived for her children and grandchildren. Nothing brought her more joy than showering them with love, spending time with them, and spending money on them. I remember Christmases when the kids were little, and the huge piles of gifts in front of each grandchild.
One Christmas, after all the gifts were opened and things had quieted down, I went out to the garage to grab a drink from the cooler. Joe was out there smoking a cigarette.
I said something like, “Mary sure outdid herself this time.”
Joe said, “Nothing makes her happier. She’s a giver.”
Mary and Joe understood each other. The type of understanding that allowed their marriage to stand the test of time for 59 years. Mary and Joe were witnesses to the sacrament of marriage.
During our conversation last week, Mary told me she wanted to die on June 5th. That was their wedding anniversary and she wanted to go see Joe.
When Joe called Mary a giver, he was not only referring to Christmas gifts. Maureen shared with us earlier some of what Mary gave to her children, and how those gifts have been carried forward: determination, values, strength, and independence.
A grain of wheat and the fruits of a life lived well.
When someone of Mary’s age passes away, we tend to offer words of consolation like, “She lived a good, long life” or “She is in a better place.”
These statements are true, but losing someone you love still hurts. And that hurt will likely stay around awhile and may resurface at times down the road.
What eases our pain is our faith. A faith that offers us hope in the Resurrection. New life from old life.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that when our “earthly dwelling” is destroyed, when our bodies give out, we go to our eternal home with God. This is our hope. Our faith allows us to believe in an eternal life we have never experienced, spent with a loving God our eyes have never seen.
As St. Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Mary walked by faith.
In the last 5-6 months of her life, there was a contentedness and peace that we had not seen from Mary for years. During this time, she often shared with us how blessed she was, and how good God had been to her. While her body continued to deteriorate, her faith grew.
When we talked last week, she shared with me that she was ready. She looked forward to what she knew was coming next for her. What I heard in her voice was not a hope in the resurrection, but a belief.
This morning, we are grateful for Mary’s life and we trust that the Lord will welcome her to His loving care.
But what about us?
What will we do with the gifts Mary has shared with us? We will honor Mary if we embrace her determination and strength. We will honor her if we acknowledge our shortcomings and strive to be peaceful and content. We will honor her when we walk by faith. We will honor Mary and Joe when we do our best to live out their witness of Christian marriage.
They are the grains of wheat and we are the fruit they have produced.
May Mary live eternally with Joe and other loved ones who have preceded her, and may our faith be strengthened as our own journeys continue.