January 29, 2016 was one of the hardest days of my life. That day we buried my father’s remains in Southern Nevada Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery. I was honored to give the Homily for my dad’s service. I am not a minister. I am not a theologian. I have not been trained in special schools. But I do have the Holy Spirit. After I accepted the call to write this message, I became nervous, but comforted in knowing that I was doing what I was told to do.
Below is the message I gave to my dad’s family and friends.
Our New Testament reading comes from 1 Corinthians 15: 35-40. Hear the word of the Lord,
“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.”
When I sat down to write this homily, it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Trying to make a coherent message while still trying to grieve the loss of my dad.
I realized several things through this process.
1) Death is final. There are no more phone calls, no more photographic opportunities. It’s heartbreaking. It’s sad. It can cause rifts in families. It can bring a strong Christian to her knees. Death in this life is rough.
But then I remember what Jesus says in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…”
This verse is Jesus providing a shoulder, a hug, an open conversation with our Savior who can comfort us like no other can. He understands our loss, our heartbreak and our sadness. He is able to hold us up in times like these, even though death is final.
2) I also understood our bodies are incredibly fragile. We think we can become invincible. Like body builders. Our bodies cannot withstand the years of abuse we do to them. It cannot remove the toxins from taking advantage of our organs. Our bodies are imperfect and in a constant state of decay. But with these imperfect bodies, comes the responsibility to take care of them. To use them for God’s glory, to be a vessel of the Good News even when we are feeling like we simply can’t. To take times like these, and turn them into messages of hope, of education, or sympathy.
My dad’s body was torn up. It was weak and fragile. When I visited him just a month ago, his body was failing him. He knew it. And that was hardest part to see. My dad was strong when I was growing up. He worked in our yard, fixed our cars, taught me how to change a tire, my oil, brakes and spark plugs. He reshingled our two-story home tied onto the roof by a rope. He FELL from that roof landing on a pile of shingles littered with roofing nails, and got back up there the next day to finish the job. My dad’s body was strong, but as age and years of bad habits took its toll, his body failed him.
However, as the initial scripture says, “the splendor of our heavenly bodies is of another.” And that our earthly bodies are not our heavenly bodies. And thankfully, when our bodies fail us, we can be gifted a new and perfect one.
3) Third, our days have been written in the book. But we do not know when our day comes. My dad’s day came January 5, 2016. Too soon it feels like. But who am I really to question what God’s plans are? The one and only benefit I find in funerals is the reunion with family that I have not seen in years. And then my question comes, “Why do we wait until we lose someone to come together?” This should be a push for people to see each other more often.
4) Lastly, and probably most importantly, is my even more in depth understanding of Jesus’ paving of the way for all of us. See, he wasn’t just born, lived and then died in vain. He did this to prepare a way for each of us to spend eternity in heaven with the Lord, and with each other.
Jesus says in John 14: 1-4, ““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Jesus died so that when my dad died, when you or I die, we can join him among streets paved with gold, in harmony and everlasting peace. So that we can die here, to be born in Heaven. By accepting his free gift of grace, we get all of that!
Death isn’t final. Death is the beginning of a time with eternal peace, eternal health, perfected bodies, and joy beyond measure.