3:1-6, 9; Cor 5:1,6-10; Matt 25:31-46
In a moment such as this we stand helpless. In Holy
Week, we hear in the book of the prophet Zechariah: “They shall look on him who
they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an
only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem shall
be great.” It is easy for us to identify
with this grieving and mourning over a lost son – or daughter, taken at
mid-life. Indeed, just as in Jerusalem,
the mourning is great here in Harrodsburg.
Yet we have reason to hope! We
know that what Zechariah speaks is not the end of the story. The only son in Zechariah is fulfilled in
Christ Jesus. When Christ Jesus took the
sins and illnesses of the world to the cross, he turned death on its head; he
destroyed death and brought new life from the grave. We hear in Book of Wisdom today: “Their going
forth from us [was thought] utter destruction.
But they are in peace…their hope is full of immortality…because God tried
them and found them worthy of himself.”
This gives us hope – hope for Natalie, hope for her family, and hope for
us. Christ won the victory for us. Indeed, in Corinthians we hear “we have a dwelling…
not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”
Christ’s suffering, passion, dying and rising- what we Christians call
the Pascal Mystery- assures us of this.
Natalie participated deeply in this Pascal
mystery, this dying and rising. In her
baptism, Natalie’s suffering was united to that of Christ. Natalie’s struggle Christ took with him to the
cross. Natalie died with Christ in the
waters of baptism the day before her mortal death. She lived her own passion in her final
illness. She endured it and suffered through it as Christ did. It might seem she was conquered by it. But as Christians we walk by faith, not by sight
(as we just heard); we know that appearance differs from reality because Christ
turned death on its head. (Because Natalie
worked with books, it seems appropriate that I quote from literature today.) The
immortal poem by John Donne, “Death, Be Not Proud,” declares: “One short sleep
past…/Death, thou shalt die.” Christ kills death for us.
Natalie’s life was one of great creativity as
an artist, teaching origami and crafting displays of eagles and lunar eclipses.
She was other directed toward others. The
passage from Gospel of Matthew today is most appropriate: “Whatever you did for
these least of mine, you did for me.” Natalie
lived this, showing great sensitivity for others, for her family, for Jason,
and for Ian, for co-workers. Just as we remember Christ in the breaking of the
bread and he becomes present to us, so, too, as we remember Natalie, she is still with us.
I say to Jason, Ian, Sara, Ken, John and Marty: She is no longer limited by time, space or illness. She is a new source
of energy. Expect to feel her presence with you.
Often at funerals, I mention the Irish fiction writer James Joyce. As Natalie, as a librarian, was a custodian of great literature, it is appropriate that I cite Joyce today. The capstone of his short story collection, Dubliners, is his masterpiece, The Dead. In The Dead, Gabriel Conroy’s Aunt Julia is dying. As Gabriel ponders her approaching death, he awakens to understand love and eternity for the first time in his life. He has the great awareness that: the dead are always with us. He speaks this immortal passage: “The snow is falling, faintly falling, falling faintly, falling softly, softly falling all over Ireland…falling…on all the living and the dead.” The snow falling softly is a symbol of God’s Grace, that is, God’s comforting presence with us all. Yes, comforting all the living here in Harrodsburg, and the dead. Let us console one another with this message. Rev. Albert J. DeGiacomo, Saint Andrew Catholic