Monday, April 29, 2013

Plan my own what?!

If there is truly one certainty in life it is death. Each and every person will die, no exceptions. Recently, in my ministry, I have been around a lot of deaths and many funerals and I have learned one thing- I am going to make sure my funeral plans are done prior to my death. We have met with several families of late and the range of preplanning is vast - from absolutely none (most common) to a few sketchy plans. The problem with this is obvious - often the true will of the deceased is NOT followed. Persons who would have wanted a funeral Mass in the Parish Church are often buried with a quick prayer service at a funeral home led by who knows who. Persons who would have liked a Liturgical Wake/Vigil Service with a Rosary end up having a quick visitation and no prayers since their children have fallen away from the faith "aren't going to sit through a Rosary".
Preplanning with a funeral home can be wise, as well. Funeral directors tell us that people who do NOT preplan have funerals that are about 30% more expensive than those who do. In the emotion of the moment, people will often spend thousands more on a casket, vault, flowers, etc.They will end up meeting for HOURS with the funeral home and church trying to get things put together. I thank God that my father-in-law, who died recently, had all of these things done in advance. We met for less than an hour with the funeral director and had the funeral liturgy planned in just a few minutes - and it was the funereal HE wanted.
NONE of us know the time, the day or the hour. Good planning can ensure that you have the funeral you want, where you want. Do your children and your pastor a favor - do that planning now. Many churches have preplanning forms that can be filled out and kept in your membership file. Most funeral homes also have a way of assisting people in the planning process. It may seem morbid or make you uneasy to talk about your own death or the death of your spouse (or other loved ones) but it will make things MUCH easier when the big day comes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

This is how you do it:

How can we be disciples of Jesus Christ? How would anyone ever know that you or I are connected in some way with God? We might think "I go to Church, I pray every once  in a while, I think I'm a nice person", etc. Although going to Church, praying and treating others with kindness are good things, they are not enough.
Jesus, in John's Gospel, makes it pretty clear just what it takes when he says "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(13: 34-34)
Unfortunately, our culture has all but stripped the word "love" of its true meaning. We have been trained to think that love is sentimentalism or romanticism. While these can be occasional expressions of love, they are not love itself. Love, in Jesus terms, is simply this: Willing the good of the other, as other. In other words, laying down your life for the good of the beloved(s) in your life. If we know that the good of our spouses and children is to get to heaven then we will work, in love, to assist them in attaining that end. If, on the other hand, we want to raise children that will be good Christians and good citizens, we need to be willing to allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions and "fail" if necessary. To shield a child from every negative or bad thing in their life is  anything but love. Love demands respect of the other person's freedom - in fact, love has to exist in that freedom.
Do you want be a disciple of Jesus Christ? I know that I do. But it goes way beyond claiming a religious affiliation or membership in a parish. It goes way beyond good feelings and bland sentiment. It means I live my life loving all persons as Jesus loves me. That is a tall order. That seems impossible. But if Jesus words in this Gospel are true it is the ONLY way to properly follow him. That means I love the people in my life that drive me crazy, it means I love those that don't seem very lovable, it means I love the Jew, the Muslim, the Hindu, the African, the Native as much as Jesus loves them.  Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? This is how you do it: " This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

With accompanying signs...

Today is the Feast Day of St Mark the Evangelist. Mark is mentioned in Acts,1Peter and by St Paul in his letters. He is believed to be the first Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt where he eventually suffered martyrdom by being drug through the town with a rope tied around his neck.
In the last lines of his Gospel he talks of the signs that accompanied the Apostolic preaching on the life of Jesus Christ. I wonder what those signs might have been then? I wonder what they are today as believers continue to go forth with the Word on their lips and Christ in their hearts. How is their relationship of love evident?
I surmise that it is not much different than a relationship of love between two people. When I first started dating my wife some 40 years ago I was different than I had been before. My friends often asked me "What has gotten into you?" I was so filled with new found love that it was obvious in my words, my attitude and my actions. I imagine many of you have experienced that same thing.
Our relationship with God should be like that. We discover God through the Word and the testimony of others. As we begin to understand the love God has for us it becomes easy to fall in love with God. Just as in human love, we will be different because of that loving relationship with God. That love should be evident in our lives and, indeed, be the "accompanying sign" of our relationship. St Paul reminds us how necessary it is to have that love before we go out and proclaim so that we do not become a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1Cor 13:1).
Today, on the Feast of St Mark, let that love shine forth in new and beautiful ways!

Monday, April 22, 2013

God's Patience...

Recently, I have been involved in several funerals in one way or another - wake services, assisting at funeral Masses or burials. What really got me thinking was the diversity of ages of those who had passed away. The youngest was 39, the oldest was 97 and there was a 60 year old and a 67 year old in between. In my ministry as a Deacon, I have done many Wakes and been involved in many funerals and most of them have been for people younger than me or just a couple of years older. I often wonder why one person gets 97 years and others die very young.
A Scripture verse that helps me is 2Peter 3:15 which says "Consider the patience of the Lord as salvation". God gives us the years we need in order to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). My prayer for all of the people that I work with at funerals / wakes is that they truly have participated in the work of their salvation and benefited from God's patience.
I also consider that years spent on earth are not the same as living in Eternity. What truly is a long (or short) life from and Eternal perspective? Whether a child lives only a few hours or a person lives to be 100, I believe God honors that life completely. Certainly, from a human perspective, it is difficult to lose our loved ones (particularly children). Our own Faith, Hope, and Love along with the support of family, friends, and parish is what assists us on the path of grieving and sorrow.