By Father Jim Hogan, March 28, 2014
John 10: 1-‐10
These recent weeks have been filled with challenge. Now the prayer of our sister and beloved friend Rosemary has been answered. She has passed through the thin veil of death and awakened in the arms of God. Finally she is able to sing, “free at last, free at last, I thank God Almighty I am free at last.” We hope that you Jim, in your own way, are able to join her in that song.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full.” As Rosemary struggled with pain and physical diminishment, preparing to die, it was so apparent to me that in Christ she was becoming more and more alive. It is a gift to know someone who really lives as though God is the most important thing in his or her life.
Funerals are always about faith. There is no physical evidence and so it is impossible to demonstrate there is or is not a Gracious Mystery we name God, or that human consciousness does or does not survive beyond death. Those are the options. Whichever our choice, it is faith.
I presume all of us gathered here believe God does exist and human consciousness does survive beyond death. So I borrow and paraphrase the comment of Pete Seeger’s friend at Pete’s funeral. “Well, of course she passed away, but that doesn’t mean she’s gone.”
At least that is what Rosemary and I believe. But what does that mean? What did Jesus mean when he said, “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full?”
For me the Clark Fork River is a metaphor of the Christ Mystery! The physical characteristics of the river reflect the seasons. In hot, dry periods the river’s flow of water shrinks. In mid-winter the river becomes a still, white ribbon. After heavy rains or during spring run-off the river becomes a powerful torrent. As each season surrenders to the next, every drop of water is absorbed by the river and steadily taken to the sea; drawn to the ocean like a piece of steel to a powerful magnet. So we are absorbed by and drawn to Christ! “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full?”
Some of our God images seem strange. Some are projections of our fears and fantasies. Even poetry is limited. The poet Rainer Marie Rilke sought to image God for us:
“You are the future, the red sky before sunrise over the fields of time.
You are the deep innerness of all things, the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently: To the ship as coastline, to the shore as a
Jesus of Nazareth was, like us, a real human being. His life and message have been encrusted with so many clichés and so much pious talk that the Christ Mystery has been blurred and diluted. John summarized the Christ Mystery in this one sentence. “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full!”
This Jewish man Jesus became fully alive and fully human as he lived out of the conviction that God is our loving parent. He faced death convinced God would not abandon him. So too did Rosemary. There is no physical evidence, so it is impossible to prove that God raised Jesus from death. I believe that God did so, thus confirming his manner of life and his teaching. And so I trust God will raise us as well.
The cosmos in which we live is enormous. It is comprised of black holes, billions of stars and galaxies, and a variety of life forms on our planet and probably beyond. I believe the cosmos has been emerging from, is sustained by, and is being drawn into a future of unknown possibilities by that Gracious Mystery we name God. I also believe that as every raindrop or snowflake is absorbed by the river and steadily drawn to the ocean like a piece of steel to a powerful magnet, so every person, Rosemary and all of us, every person with our entire history matters to God and we with all of our personal stories will be taken up forever into the life and love of God.
We know too well that yes, death is real! But death is not final! We celebrate Eucharist today the one who claimed, “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full,” is both model and mentor of us. Rosemary’s time, her work among us has ended. In Christ, she and all she is, has changed. “Yes, she passed away, but that doesn’t mean she’s gone!”