Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
I want to thank everyone for being here this morning for this Mass of Remembrance.  We usually come together as a parish family to celebrate the life of one of our parishioners who has died.  But so often when a sibling, a cousin, a child, grandchild or close friend dies somewhere else, we miss the comfort and support of our parish family.  I know this firsthand because a few months ago my brother, Jim, died in Colorado and I couldn’t be there.  This Mass gives all of us that have lost a loved one over the past year the chance to come together as a family and comfort and support each other. 

Each one of these candles represents a precious gift, a precious memory.  Because these lives were so precious, our hearts are torn.  Every time we think about them we feel the loss again.  So often we are like Martha in John’s Gospel just asking:  Why?  We cannot help but think, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother, our daughter, my sister, my cousin, would not have died.”  Where were you when we needed you, where were you when they needed you?  How do we find peace in the face of this loss, in the face  of this innocent suffering?  The simple fact is human wisdom has no answer.  Peace will come not from logic but from trust, a trust that stems from love, love of a God who John’s Gospel tells us, “He so loved the world, (us), that He gave His only Son” up to an excruciating death on a cross.  That is the movement that we see throughout Scripture:  Peace comes from Trust, Trust comes from love, love of God, love of a God who first loved us.

Isn’t that what we heard in Psalm 121?  I raise my eyes toward the mountains, from where shall come my help?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  The lord is your guardian, the lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever.  And the Lord will guard the coming and going of our brothers, sisters, cousins and friends - both now and forever.  Where is God?  Close to us everyday and close to our loved ones, sharing in their suffering, near them as they died.

As we listened to the Gospel, it is important to notice that Jesus was not satisfied with Martha’s act of faith.  Oh yes, she believed, believed in life - but in another life:  “I know that my brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  No, says Jesus, that’s not the point.  “Whoever believes in me will never die.

 Will never die.  This is not pious exaggeration to give Martha some comfort.  The heart and soul of John’s Gospel is summed up in today’s reading:  “Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’”  Jesus not only has life, he is life - because the Holy Spirit, that Spirit who gives life, is his Spirit, and this Spirit, this life, He gives to us.  In John’s vision, in the Christian vision, we die only if and when the Spirit of life leaves us.  At the moment Jesus died, his body was indeed lifeless; and yet he was gloriously alive, because the Spirit of life, God the Holy Spirit, was still and for ever His Spirit, His life.  We can have peace, even after the loss of a loved one, a cherished friend, if we trust, trust in God’s great love for us.  A love so great that God, and his life giving Spirit will never leave us or our loved ones. 

Each one of these flickering candles represents a life.  Not a life lost but a life transformed, a life now fully alive in and with God.  Perhaps what is flickering is not their life but our trust, our trust in God.  So I pray for each of us that we can say, like Martha, yes Lord, I do believe that everyone who lives and believes in you will never die.  May Almighty God Bless and Comfort each one of you today and every day!