It was a great honor to preach at my grandmother's funeral and I will like to share with you the homily that I preached:
We are gathered this morning in this beautiful church to remember and to pray for the respose soul of our sister Maria. My dear brothers and sisters as Christians she is a sister to all of us but to many of us, she is our mother, our grandmother, great-grandmother, our sister, our aunt, and our friend. We remember that this woman was a woman that left many memories for us to remember this morning. She of course wasn’t born in this country but in the small village of Furnas, Sao Miguel in the Azores, she raised six children with her husband in extreme poverty but was such a strong woman even in the midst of her poverty that she loved her children so dearly and only wanted the best for them. She just didn't show a mother's love to them but made the faith an important aspect in their lives and even until her last earthly day she would mouth some prayer or blessing upon all her children, grandchildren and greatchildren. She came to this country so that they could escape the poverty and to give her children a better life and she loved this country dearly that at the young age of seventy six years old she became an American citizen. She was a simple and hard working woman like many immigrants she worked in the factory and each Sunday morning was devoted in coming to Mass and when she and after her retirement it wasn't uncommon for to attend daily Mass and she would always say it's not a Sunday without going to Mass. I honestly could say that with my grandmother's deep conviction in God and in the Church that she help the seed of my vocation grow. The only wish she had since I entered the order was to be present for my Frist Mass. Of course, she will not be their physically but as Catholics we beleive when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated that all the angels and saints surronds the altar and I know deep down in my being that my grandmother will be numbered among those saints when I preside at my First Eucharistic celebration in May.
We find in the book of Wisdom, “the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. How true that is that we are assured that as long as we are close to our loving and living God he will take care of us. In the second reading, St. Paul tells the community of Thessalonia, “for if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” My brothers and sisters as Christians, the center of our faith is the resurrection, we who are believers have that hope in our own resurrection as we hope that our sister Maria will share in that resurrection. In the Gospel that I proclaimed just moments ago from the Gospel of John we heard that famous passage "I am the way and the truth and the life.” My brothers and sisters Thomas asked the question to the Lord, "we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Maria didn't ever have to ask that question. She always knew that our Lord Jesus was the way, the truth and the life" My brothers and sisters Maria was a great example to us when it came to faith. She showed to us that our God is a true loving God. A God that is alive and that we needed to be in that path that leads to him.
Today’s liturgy has many symbolisms that unfortunately people don’t understand or don’t catch which of course is understandable under the circumstances when we have lost a loved one. Our sister, Maria, was brought into the entrance of the church this morning and Fr. Ed sprinkled holy water over her casket symbolizing the waters of the baptism that washed her clean when she was baptized than her casket was clothed with a white garment that is called a funeral pall which symbolizes purity and again the connection to her baptism because when she was washed in the waters of baptism it wasn’t a ceremonial washing but actual cleansing of any sin that she had and she was a pure as the snow that comes from the heavens. Her casket is placed in front of the Easter candle which is the symbol of Christ present but also of his resurrection and the resurrection that we as Christians hope to share in when the Lord calls us home. You will notice also throughout this celebration of the Eucharist the prayers will be prayers for the soul of Maria, we as a Catholic community believe that we need to pray for the dead so that they can share in that beatific vision of seeing God face to face. Than at the end of the liturgy , her casket will be incensed because we believe that our bodies are sacred because they are temples of the Holy Spirit and also incensing symbolizes that our prayers are lifted to our Lord and as the casket is incensed the hymn, “Song of Farewell” is sung and it has such a beautiful refrain, “May the choirs of angels come to greet you. May they speed you to paradise. May the Lord enfold you in his mercy. May you find eternal life.” My brothers and sisters we mourn for this beloved woman today but we should leave this place of worship not with saddened hearts but with hearts of rejoicing and I came across a poem that I found beautiful and perfect for this occassion and for this great woman:
"God saw she was getting tiredAnd a cure was not to be.So He put his arms around herAnd whispered, "Come with me."With tearful eyes we watched her go.Although we loved her dearly.We could not make her stay.A golden heart stopped beating,Hard working hands to rest.God broke our hearts to prove to us,He only takes the best."