Friday, February 24, 2017

Funeral of Benjamin Gleason

This morning I celebrated the Funeral Mass for Ben Gleason, pictured to the fair left almost twenty years ago at his youngest brother's Baptism...Chris is in his sister Briget's arms, with his parents MaryAnne and Paul on either side.  It was my first pastorate and the Gleasons are a wonderful family and dear friends.  Here is the homily I preached.

In the face of death, before the dark grave of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept.  And so they said, see how much he loved him.

We weep, because we loved Ben, as a son, a brother, a friend and a good guy.  So many of us have missed him for so long, it is hard to realize that he is truly gone.

For Ben is the one you, Paul and Maryanne, lovingly taught to first make the sign of the cross, and who always tried to do the right thing.  Even in those years in the desert when he struggled with the forces struggling within his mind and his heart, his friends always said he would do anything for anyone and was the one person everyone liked.

We miss you Ben, not just for who you might have become, but for who you are, a good good man.

But this day is not really about about Ben, or even the struggles he faced in life.  Rather, it is about the God who loved him. Loved him so much that he joined him to himself in the the waters of Baptism, anointed him with the oil of salvation, and nourished him with the bread of those who will never really die.

The God who day by day and year by year, revealed himself to Ben, taught him to love, to confess and to seek to live in the model of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

You know, I don’t think its a coincidence that Ben died just before Lent.  For starting next Ash Wednesday we will meditate on the incredible journey God calls us to in this life. When just like Jesus, and just like Ben, God calls us out into the desert.  And while none of us can ever really know what the desert of another has been about, I’m fairly certain that Ben, like Jesus, knew temptation and hunger, emptiness and pain.  But I am equally as certain that Ben, like Jesus, day after day turned from darkness to light, selfishness to love, and from Satan to God.

Which is why he began the journey home, with the full knowledge that God so loved him that he surrounded him with the love of a mother and a father and a sister and, even now, a brother.  The same God who so loved him that he has now taken him to himself, to the place he has prepared for each one of us.

And so it is into the hands of God, this day, that we commend his immortal soul. We ask angels to lead him into paradise. We ask martyrs to come to welcome him. And most of all, we ask God, who does not judge with the haste of a human heart, to look upon Ben with mercy, to forgive whatever sins he may have committed, to lead him home to a place of refreshment, light, and peace.

That same heaven for which our aching hearts long...that paradise, where we pray that one day we will stand, with Paul and Maryanne and Brigid and Chris, and where Ben will run out to meet us and we will be together with Christ, in perfect love, forever singing the praise of God in the presence of the angels.

Lord, Jesus who was born as man that we might know that hope, make that day to come without delay!