Thursday, May 9, 2019

God's beloved child

Here is the text of the reflection I shared today during the funeral that we celebrated for a man of deep faith who has now completed his journey Home.

Funeral homily for Gilles Joseph Barabe

Friends and family members of our beloved Gilles have gathered in this place today.  We have come to give thanks to God for having lent Gilles to us for these last eight decades.  Here, in this place, Gilles came with his beloved Pierrette to pray, just as we have today.  Here, in this place, whenever he stopped long enough to utter the words of his prayer, Gilles was always a little boy – just as we are all little children in the presence of our loving Father.

Elliot Lake was the last geographical location where Gilles made his home, but there were other places before, and in each place, he always took time to give thanks to God for what he had received.  Therefore, it is fitting that we should also give thanks to God today for the gift that Gilles has been to each one of us.

Over these past few months ... and perhaps a little longer, we have had the great privilege to accompany our friend, our companion as he has completed his journey.  Some of us have spent long hours sitting at his bedside, others have had more fleeting visits, all of us have witnessed his gift of hospitality and his curiosity, for he always wanted to hear our stories too.  Visiting with Gilles and Pierrette has given us a glimpse into the experience that Jesus must have known whenever he visited his friends Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus.  Their home in Bethany was his home too.  He and his disciples had spent many hours in conversation with them: sharing the stories and adventures of their lives.

It is quite possible that Jesus had explained to his hosts the truths that he also shared with his disciples: Martha knew that whatever Jesus asked of God would be granted (Jn 11:22).  She also knew that he would rise again at the resurrection on the last day (Jn 11:24), but then Jesus explained something further: He said, I am the resurrection, and then he asked her: Do you believe this? (Jn 11:25-26).  She answered immediately: Yes, Lord, I believe (Jn 11:27).

For the last number of months, each time I would visit with Gilles at the hospital, we would have such conversations: not long ones, but meaningful ones.  Once he had made up his mind to accept the treatments, and even after he had decided to stop them, he was always very serene during our visits.  On some occasions, there would be many words spoken, but at other times, such words were not needed.  He would always welcome my visits though, and he would always ask to be anointed with the Oil of the Sick.  For him, this was the best medicine.  It was his way of echoing Martha's words: Yes, Lord, I believe.

All along this journey, he was always firmly convinced that one day he would be in heaven.  In the words of the prophet Job, Gilles would often speak of our Father, our Redeemer who is alive.  There was absolutely no doubt that after his awaking in heaven, God would set him close to him (Job 19:26).

Our hearts are saddened at this moment because our friend is no longer with us, but we can rejoice today as well, because he is awake now in the presence of our God.  In the days, weeks, months and even years to come, we will remember Gilles.  Let us do so as people of deep and abiding faith.  Whenever we think of him, let us remember the deep abiding wisdom that he shared with us, and the ease with which he spoke of God, as though he were a long standing companion.  We should strive to imitate the example he set for us; it was a living example of the love that the Father has lavished on us (1 Jn 3:1), the love that our God continues to lavish on us every day, reminding us that we have always been his children, his beloved children. 

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