Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Before his time

God's people gathered to bid farewell to one of our own today.  Here is the text of the homily I wrote to help his family and friends at this moment of suffering and grief.

Funeral Homily for David William Milton

Ever since the beginning of the Church, Jesus' disciples have referred to themselves as brothers and sisters, for we are all part of God's family.  In this spirit, we have gathered in this place today to pray for the repose of the soul of our beloved brother David.

At moments such as these, we look back at the life that has been lived, and in so doing, we give thanks for all that God has shared with us.  It is part of God's plan, for instance, that David and Gail met, that they came to Elliot Lake, that they fell in love with this little jewel in the wilderness and that they chose to raise their children here.  We may not often think of God when we consider the work that we are called to do, but David found employment here.  Like so many others, he worked underground, but this brother of ours will perhaps be remembered more for his work in carpentry.  In addition to the construction and renovation projects he undertook, he also left us a number of little boxes, each of them a work of art.  And more than the tangible reminders, he has left us a treasure of memories.

As we look back at all that has been, we echo the words of the first reading from the Book of Wisdom: David has departed this world too soon, before his time (Wis 4:7)We remember and celebrate the years that we have been privileged to spend in his company because the Lord has allowed us to know him and to love him.

Over the past year or so, David's body endured great suffering.  As a result, he was weakened and dehydrated.  In those final days and weeks of his earthly life, all the physical strength and agility had seeped out of him.  Yet even in his weakness, his hearing still functioned: he could still hear words that were spoken in his presence.  It is perhaps significant that the gospel passage chosen for this morning's celebration reminds us of the importance of listening to the words that Jesus speaks (Jn 5:24) and coming to believe in the One who sent him.  Today, we have come to listen for the words that Jesus is speaking to us.  He wants to reassure us that the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves ... and rise again to life (Jn 5:28-29).  This was true during the time of Jesus and it is true today.

Today, we entrust David to the love and mercy of Jesus.  It is never easy to say goodbye to someone we have known and loved, but we can do this because we believe that God's grace is present to guide us and to console us.  It is the gift of God's grace that allows us to give thanks today for David; it is the gift of God's grace that allows us to look forward to the life that lies ahead of us.  Even if we should think that it will be difficult to go on without him in our lives, we can ask the Lord to help us.  He will always come to our help: feeding us with the special food of the Eucharist and giving us the gift of his grace to help us get up again so that we can keep going.

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