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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Receive your inheritance

Here is the text of the reflection I prepared for the celebration that took place this morning in remembrance of a woman who has completed more than a century of life on earth, and who has now entered into the everlasting life that is promised to all the children of God.

Funeral homily for Gertrude Gauthier

This morning, we have come to celebrate with our sister Gertrude.  The reason for our gathering goes much beyond the visible and tangible world in which our sister has lived for the past century.  What marvels she had the great privilege to witness: the technological advances alone, if we were to list them, would keep us enthralled for hours, but at the heart of the matter, the reason why we are here is rooted in our common hope and our belief that we do not live for our own sakes (cf Rom 14:7).  This wisdom which was first written of by Saint Paul has been embodied in the life of every believer who has had the privilege of knowing Jesus, including the woman who we entrust to God’s mercy today.

The world was a very different place when Gert was born, and yet I’m willing to bet that the lessons she learned at the feet of her parents, the love she shared with her seven brothers and the joy that was the legacy of their time together were intricately yet delicately woven into the fabric of their lives along with the gift of faith that began on the day of baptism.

In time, Gert would share these gifts with Henry too, and together they would share the great treasure of these simple yet profound gifts with their children and their grandchildren.  The words from the book of Eccesiastes ring (Ecc 3:1-11), almost like a singing bell as they recall experiences that we have known, or perhaps heard about in the stories of family folklore: Gert’s experiences of joy and celebration, her ever-inquisitive mind, her thirst for knowledge and understanding – especially of current affairs, her appreciation for art and her constant willingness to dream.  Even the experience of grief at the death of her life mate, and the unspeakable suffering of having to witness the death of three of her children did not stop her from relying on her faith and from seeking the gift of hope.  These are perhaps the most precious gifts that she leaves us: gifts which will guide us too as we continue the journey of life that lies ahead.

Can you imagine the conversation that is taking place between Gert and Saint Peter?  At the gate of heaven, where the prophecy foretold in the letter the Romans is fulfilled (Rom 14:12), the words that we have heard in Saint Matthew’s gospel ring out: Blessed are you … who recognized your poverty of spirit (Mt 5:3) and despite this poverty, never lost hope; blessed are you … whose heart have experienced such sorrow, even the point of knowing what it is to suffer from a broken heart (cf Mt 5:4), and yet never allowed your spirit to be broken; blessed are you … who were always able to accept the blessings you received in life and to recognize them as gifts, yet never allowing yourself to lose sight of the One who had shared them with you (cf Mt 5:5); blessed are you … who always concerned yourself with looking out for the good of others, never sparing your own interests at the expense of others’ needs (cf Mt 5:6); blessed are you … who recognized the gift of God’s mercy and always were willing to engage in acts of mercy (Mt 5:7) so that others would also be able to encounter the merciful face of your heavenly Father; blessed are you … who never allowed the worries and concerns of earthly life to distract you from believing in the promise of new life (cf Mt 5:8); blessed are you … who courageously sought paths to building bridges of peace and reconciliation (cf Mt 5:9); and blessed are you … who did not allow the taunts of others or their lack of belief in you to dissuade you from believing that you could find a way (cf Mt 5:10).  Come, you who are blessed by the Father, receive your inheritance, the kingdom that has been prepared for you (cf Mt 25: 34).
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