Saturday, November 9, 2019

Let not your hearts be troubled

Here is the text of the homily I prepared for the funeral we celebrated for one of this city's centenarians.  She has finally completed her earthly journey.

Funeral homily for Mary Copeland

Our faith teaches that when our earthly lives are complete, we will go to heaven, where we will live forever with the Lord.  Eternal life is the promise that is made to each one of us on the day of our Baptism, and yet it seems that no matter how long we should live, no matter how many days, weeks, months or even years we have to spend waiting for that day, there is a level at which human comprehension remains unable to fully grasp the meaning of eternal life.

When Jesus spoke with his disciples about heaven, he told them that we are all destined for that place and yet, when he spoke with them about the fact that he would not always be with them, they had trouble understanding what his words could mean.  No matter how long our loved ones have spent with us, when the time comes for them to go home to heaven, there is always a part of us that is left questioning.  As Jesus said to the disciples so many years ago, he is present to all of us who are mourning Mary's death.  To each of us, Jesus says: Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, and believe also in me (Jn 14:1).

Mary was born on Cape Breton Island.  There is a special character of hospitality that can be found in all those who come from that island, and indeed from the Atlantic region of this country.  Mary brought that special character with her when she arrived here in 1958.  This place was much more rugged then than it is now, but that didn't stop Mary. Every day of her life, her long and blessed life, she always lived for others - for her husband, for her children, for her friends and of course for her extended family, which included those she encountered at the Post Office and those she challenged at the curling rink - but never for herself (cf Rom 14:7-8).  Indeed, every mother is an icon of this truth, but it seems that Mary was an expert at living this grace.

The blessing of family life that she had experienced as a child allowed her to develop strong bonds with those who were closest to her.  People didn't survive long if they didn't learn how to rely on others, and also how to do their best to help others when they were in need.  This attitude of availability was most certainly an asset when Mary arrived here in Elliot Lake.  In fact, it is an attitude of openness to the needs of those around us and a willingness to work together that still characterizes those who call this place home.  Mary and James were among those who worked together to build the first Catholic church in this wilderness.  All through the joys and sorrows of those many years, she always knew in the depth of her heart that if we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die in the Lord (Rom 14:8).  This was the source of her constant hope, the reason why even if life was challenging at times, she always wore a smile.

One hundred years of earthly life is a milestone that not many of us are privileged to celebrate.  Mary spent the last six of these years at Huron Lodge.  At first, she was reluctant to leave her home, but soon she found a new home there among friends and those who became friends because they too knew the importance of dying to self so that we can live for others.

Today, we have gathered to pray for our beloved Mary.  This is indeed a moment for celebration, for thanksgiving to God for the gift of so many years during which she shared her wisdom with us.  Today, we celebrate around the table of the Eucharist, the food of eternity, for we know that our Redeemer lives, and that he lives forever (cf Job 19:25).  The promise that was made to Mary on the day of her Baptism is now being fulfilled.  She who has been a precious child of God for a century, will now live for all eternity with Him in heaven.

No comments: