Homily at St Philip Evans, at the annual Mass for those recently bereaved in the parish
For each one of us who has had an experience of bereavement, “is” gives way to “was”.
“John was my husband…”, “Mary was my wife…”
At first these words seem abhorrent, then necessary, then normal. It is not dishonourable for us who remain to speak of them in the past tense; it is a necessary step in coming to terms with the fact that they have gone before us, and we remain behind.
I have only recently arrived in this parish, so others have conducted the funerals of the last year. Let me therefore, add my condolences to the care you have already received. We all grieve at our own pace, as we go through the pain of “is” becoming “was”, so we may find a need to be supported in a special way a month to a year after we have lost someone we love. This parish has a bereavement support group; I take this opportunity to thank them for arranging this evening’s mass and to remind you that they are available to support you, if only you tell them of your need.
But now, let our thoughts turn to those souls who have passed from “is” to “was”.
In that dark valley, where we can no longer see them, God is with them. For God, who is Lord of all time, there is no “was”. All who have lived are alive in his sight, even if they seem to be, as the prophet Daniel was told, sleeping.
We take hope in the words of Jesus that he has gone to prepare a place. Perhaps that place is a sleeping chamber, but it is still a place for our loved ones to be. It is truly a place of rest; this is why the catholic faithful pray for eternal rest. But sleep ultimately gives way to wakefulness….
We take hope in the words of St Paul, that a day of ressurrection is coming, when mortality will be clothed in immortality. All who have lived will live again. Was will be swallowed up by is; this is our christian hope of what shall be.
May the Lord who was, and who is, and who is to come, have mercy on the souls of all our loved ones. Let the perpetual light of God’s mercy shine upon them. May they rest in peace.