Friday, December 27, 2013

May she rest in peace!

This morning I was honored to celebrate the Funeral Mass of Florence Leaver, grandmother of Boston seminarian Kevin Leaver.  Many seminarians and priests were present for the Funeral, at which I preached the following homily:

There’s something strange about this morning.  For, as Mr. Farley will recall, for so many years it was never really an Immaculate Conception Funeral without Flo and Gerry Leaver and Ruth and Ed Horan sitting in the pew by the organ over there. But you know what?  I’ll tell you a secret.  Flo and Gerry and Ruth and Ed are still here, with all the angels and saints, as we celebrate this Funeral Mass and pray that God will forgive whatever sins Flo may have committed on this day of her birth unto eternal life.

In fact, I think we may even have a new image of the Kingdom of Heaven in this season of Newborn love.  It’s the image of Flo and Gerry and Ed and all the saints gathered in Ruth’s fire-proof Christmas room in the Kingdom heaven, each dressed in really gaudy Christmas sweaters, singing Christmas hymns to organ, violin and harp, before the newborn Christ, who smiles on them, and joins them to himself in eternal light and glory.

It all began eighty-six years ago at Saint Peter’s in Dorchester as, Ella and George Hanlon brought their little baby into Church to be Baptized.  The Priest took water in a small golden shell and pouring it over the child’s forehead said: Ego te baptizo, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sanctus.  I baptize you, Florence, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Thus began a great journey, as Flo was joined to the death and rising of Christ Jesus.  She would learn how to kneel down and pray, to make the sign of the cross, to go to confession and to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.  Gertie was there to see it, as day by day and year by year, she came to know Christ Jesus.  She learned to love, to forgive and to live in the model of her Lord and Savior. 

And then, Flo and  Gerry came to Church and stood before the altar and promised to remain faithful to one another and to God.  And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Janet and Gerry, Jr. and John and Ginnie and George and Paul as a concrete sign of the willingness of Florence and Gerry to cling to faithful love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.

In fact, on the day they were married, Flo and Gerry knelt before the altar as the priest, extending his hands over them, blessed them with a quotation from Psalm 128: videas filios filiorum tuorum: May you live to see your children’s children.  And so faithful was God’s love for Flo that she lived to know and to love Colleen, Joe, Mark, Kevin, Chris, Julianne, Robert, Corey and even, as great grandmother, little Callie.

In the years to come, Flo and Gerry knew good times, but they also knew bad, facing each day with the same faith which sustained them throughout their lives, as when they buried Gerry and Ginnie with faith that they would see them once again in the Kingdom of Heaven.  

Or when Flo stood by Gerry’s bed without complaint and prayed and nursed him into God’s arms, ever filled with the assurance of the words we will pray at the close of today’s Mass, that she would see him once again in glory.  

Just imagine the scene, if you will, as they all run out to meet one another in the presence of God in the Kingdom of Heaven!  

So we rejoice on this day that Florence’s eyes can once again behold Gerry and know his loving embrace.  Just as we pray that God forgive whatever sins she may have committed and look upon her with his faithful and infinite love.

For there are many heavenly graces even today, which God has granted to this daily communicant.  She died on a Saturday, just like Gerry, on the Blessed Mother’s Day.  She died in the Advent Christmas Season, the same season in which she buried her two children, in the sure and certain hope that those who receive the body of the child born in the manger, will never really die, but will be raised up with him on the last day.  

This is the season of gifts, and the greatest gift is the birth of the Son of God.  And I’m sure you’re remembering today the many gifts which Flo gave to each of you on Christmases past.  

But today she gives you the greatest gift of all.  For today she reminds each one of us of the journey we’re on.  It starts in the arms of our parents…it starts at the font of blessed water where we are first joined to Christ and to his cross.  And then it takes all kinds of twists and turns, sometimes bringing us closer to God and sometimes leading us away from him.

But today Flo reminds us where that journey ends.  It ends in the same place it began: before Christ, who will judge each one of us on the last day.  Christ, who calls us to turn away from selfishness and sin, and cling to faithful love.  Christ, who urges us to forgive, even as we ask to be forgiven.  Christ, who laid down his life for the world, and asks us to do the same.  Christ, who loved us faithfully and then commanded: love others as I have loved you.

For the greatest memorial to Florence Leaver will not be the finest monument in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  It will not even be the wonderful stories you will tell or even the moments you will recall her wise and faithful words.  No, the greatest memorial to Flo, will be the life of faithful love which you are invited to live with the Son of God and his Church, the same journey she walked and which led to the loving arms of Christ Jesus, her Lord.