Readings: Wisdom 3:1-6,9; Psalm 23; Romans 14:7-9,10b-12; Matthew 6:1-12a
Margaret, Marcy, Maria, Phil, on behalf of this parish community and the whole Church, I extend to you our condolences.
The death of a parent is hard, as you know well. But the death of our Mom is especially hard. It can feel like the utter destruction we heard in the first reading. We have a special connection with our Moms, because she was our home for the first months of our lives. Her heart is the first heartbeat, we heard. Because of this connection, our grief, our sadness, our pain, is different from other deaths we’ve experienced.
But, at the same time, because of our faith, we may be experiencing joy. Joy our Mom is no longer suffering from her illness and other pains in this world, and is at peace. Joy she may be reunited with others that have gone before her, even dancing. Joy, that she may be, right now, blessed by being in the visible presence of God.
Examining Lorraine’s life from the outside, many would conclude she had a difficult life. She experienced more deaths than many of us will – her husband Phillip at an early age, her daughter Laurie, grandson Chris, and son-in-law Tim along with others. She struggled through situations and challenges that some knew about, and many that only she knew. There had to be many times where she felt like she was walking through a dark valley.
And yet, through all of this, she almost always had a smile, a laugh, she was a joyful person. We may have wondered, how she did it. How she was able to be joyful and happy with everything going on in her life? I think it was because she knew who was walking beside her. She recognized and acknowledged her companion on the journey. Through all these dark valleys, where she too often, found herself, she saw God was with her.
In the gospel reading, we hear the story of Jesus, going up onto a hill above the Sea of Galilee, sitting down, and teaching his disciples the beatitudes. Jesus didn’t want them to “memorize” a bunch of rules. He wanted to teach them how to change their lives, so they would become the person God created them to be. Based on what I know of Lorraine, it would not surprise me to hear some of her students say, that is how Lorraine taught.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear Paul saying none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself, because if we live or die, we do it for the Lord. For me, this describes Lorraine. She had become the person God created her to be, by spending her life teaching others. And even now, in her death, she is still teaching.
Lorraine died on the 1st Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time we are asked to focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We pray so as to strengthen our relationship with God and learn what God created us to be. We fast and give alms to help us work on becoming that person. Over the next days and weeks of Lent, many of us will feel the pain of our separation from Lorraine, in some ways it will feel like a fast. It will be a time we may turn to God and ask for relief, in other words, we will be praying. Through Lorraine’s death, she continues to teach us, she is teaching us to pray.
Returning to the Gospel, we hear, “Blessed are they who mourn.” For those who are mourning, it doesn’t feel like a blessing. If we look around at all who are present, we will see some who are mourning, others who are here to provide comfort, and still others who are both mourning and providing comfort. Lorraine’s death created the mourners, which provided the opportunity for those who are providing comfort, to work on becoming the person God created them to be. Another lesson Lorraine is teaching us through her death.
On Tuesday morning, I altered my normal morning routine. My day typically starts in prayer, and this day was like most of my mornings, other than I started my prayer by reading the scriptures we just heard. As I continued with my regular prayers, I experienced a vision. This is something that has occurred to me before; I have discovered it is how God often communicates with me. I think this is one more lesson, Lorraine is trying to teach us.
In this vision, I saw a large dining room table. Seated in the center of one side of the table was Lorraine. Around the table were many familiar faces, including Lorraine’s husband Phillip, and her sisters and brothers that have gone before her, and many others. Everyone around the table was talking and laughing, eating and playing cards. It was a joyous place to be.
As I was taking all of this in, I noticed Lorraine would every-so-often, take a quick glace over her shoulder. So as I focused on her, I noticed each time she would take that quick glace behind her, there would be a small tear in the corner of her eye. But she had the biggest smile you could imagine. So as I watched her, I finally figured out the distant location she was glancing at each time she turned her head.
So I started focusing on that distant location. Initially I couldn’t see what was there, but as I concentrated on it, the picture became clearer. And as I stared, I eventually noticed it was people, many with familiar faces, the faces were familiar because many of those same faces are looking at me right now.
It was then that I finally figured it out. The tear in Lorraine’s eye was because she was separated from the people in the distance. The big smile was because, with God’s grace, one day, all those people would be with her, gathered around the same table.