Katie Tinker Young sent this, a copy of Fr. Whealan’s homily at JoJo’s funeral Mass.
Our attitude toward funerals gives us an indication of how strong our faith is. Unless a person dies as a result of a tragic accident or illness, a funeral should be a celebration of life. I hope this statement doesn’t shock anyone. I don’t think it is an irreverent statement, merely a fact.
These are a few of the ideas I base it on. Once I was assigned a funeral and one of the relatives sent me a short note. It said, “Don’t say things about how wonderful death is and how we should look forward to it. Neither I or the people coming to the funeral believe such things.” I showed the note to one of the finest priests I’ve been privileged to know who was quite elderly at the time. He laughed out loud and said, “Wait till she’s been here as long as I have, she’ll know what to look forward to!”
How many of us can look death in the face and see it for what it is, not an enemy, but another preliminary to the only real life, the living forever with God and all those who have gone ahead of US.
Once in a Christmas sermon, Archbishop Fulton Sheen blurted out, “Answer me this question: What is youthfulness?”
He answered his own question. “Youthfulness is proximity to the source of life.” He developed the idea by pointing out that the older we become, the younger we become, because we grow closer to the source of eternal life, namely, God. The elderly who have kept their faith vibrant throughout their natural life, grow younger and more childlike as they come closer to meeting God.
The chronologically young who abandon their faith, age in proportion as they distance themselves from their only source of life–their natural life at birth. The chronologically old who live a vigorous supernatural life have found a fountain of youth.
Josephine Roberts left this world as a very young person.
She merited all the praise Holy Scripture accords to outstanding women.
Her husband, Louis, would attest to these words of the book of proverbs, “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good and not evil, all the days of her life.”
The text continues, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come. Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her: Many are the women of proven worth, they say, but you have excelled them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” What more did she need to accomplish in this life?
It is fitting that Josephine should begin her new and lasting life during the holy season of Advent. She celebrated the Lord’s birthday every year for almost a century. But in recent years this coming of Christ at Bethlehem was not the coming she focused on. The personalized coming of Christ to take her to heaven was the advent that she prayed for. The prayers at Mass began to take on special meaning for her.
For instance, the prayer after the Our Father, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” She indeed waited in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord, and now at last He has come.
When I officiate at a funeral, I can’t resist saying a few words about heaven. Would you like to go and live forever in a distant land where you didn’t know the language, where the customs were unfamiliar, and none of your friends were there, or likely to come there. What if you didn’t like the activities there? Someone who never prayed won’t know the language of heaven. If a person didn’t know Jesus, Mary and the saints, he or she would die of loneliness there, and if those who avoid going to church and praising God would go there, they would be bitterly unhappy. Heaven would be hell for them.
Josephine will be extremely happy in Heaven. She knew and spoke in prayer the language of God and His saints all her life. She is a personal friend of the leading citizens there and has been since her childhood.
As long as her health permitted, she participated fully in the activities of the Church. People like Josephine are the Lord’s kind of people. They say you can’t take it with you. So what? You can tell a lot about a person by what they leave behind. Look around this church. See her children and her children’s children? See her relatives and friends? There’d be even more but she outlived them all.
The church in Wichita and the other cities where her family have taken root are a testament to her, because she and her family have built up the Church wherever they have lived.
Whatever tasks God assigned her in this life she did very well. I could go on with this recitation but I don’t want to embarrass the family.
Suffice it to say that Josephine was the type of person Jesus chose as His friend like Martha or Mary. He told them, and by extension, He told Josephine, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am, you also may be.”
He has done just that. I rest my case that a funeral, especially this funeral, should be a celebration of eternal life.