Recently, Barbara, a friend of our family passed away at 79 years old. When her daughters asked me to do the wake and graveside service, I was very honored. Though I’ve had some experience in speaking at funerals, leading such a service was a “first” for me. Maeve and I knew that we had to truly lean on the Lord!
At the wake, I gave Barbara’s eulogy, for which the family thanked me. It was the kind of personal tribute that they had hoped for. When I’d finished speaking of her life, I spoke on the Scriptures that we had used for the prayer service. Here are those reflections;
“Psalm 23 speaks of rest. It’s written by the greatest King of Israel, David, who was a shepherd when God called him. From his days of watching over and protecting the sheep, David learned what was needed to be a good shepherd. He knew that sheep have to eat, so he found them ‘green pastures.’ He knew they have to drink, so he led them to ‘still waters.’ He also knew they needed protection from wolves, so he spoke of the ‘rod and staff’ which shepherds use to drive away predators.
“As King of all Israel, he reflected on the nature of God, so it was easy for him to compare the Lord with a shepherd, and not just any earthly shepherd. No, for David, who obviously was a true friend of God, the Lord was his shepherd and he could say with the firmness of a great faith; “There is nothing I shall want.” Can we say that? If not, why not?
“Listen again to these words of the Psalm; ‘Surely goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.’ This was Barbara’s experience of life. For all who believe, it’s a full and graced life to be in the flock of the Lord Jesus.
“Then at Psalm’s end, ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ Yes, this is the Hope of all hopes, and this is what Jesus himself promised on the night before He died.
“‘There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be –John 14:2-3
This is what he told his closest friends on the night before he would die a cruel death on the Cross. He knew that all His suffering would be worth it. Why?
“The answer is found earlier in John’s Gospel. ‘The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ (John 10:11) If we see with eyes of faith, then we truly see. We know in our hearts that we are His sheep… and that the awful price He paid was for each of us.
“On the day Barbara died, I went to St Peter’s for what would be my very last visit with her. I almost didn’t go, because of my busy schedule. Yet, my instinct told me that I needed to go, and indeed, go soon. I got there at one o’clock, just hours before she passed and Beth, her daughter, was there. She and her sister, Karen had been keeping shifts faithfully.
“When I saw her, Barbara could barely open her eyes, but she did… at the sound of my voice. I asked Beth to join me in a prayer. Trust me when I tell you that I could immediately sense the Love that Jesus had for his ‘lamb.’ As Beth bowed her head and held her mother’s hand and as I touched Barbara’s shoulder gently, I prayed aloud that she would feel the compassion and the care of the Good Shepherd. I knew in my heart of hearts, as sick and helpless as she was, that she was in good hands. No, not good hands… the best hands!
“And that my friends, is where we trust that she is now, at peace and basking in the infinite joy of heaven. This is where you who loved her and you who felt her love, will also one day be… in the best hands. Those hands of course, are the hands of Jesus, who remains eternally…. the Good Shepherd.”
“I know my sheep and they know me.” -John 10:14
You need only believe. Faith is the door, the door to the Hope that never dies and to the life that never ends!
May the soul of Barbara, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. May her family and friends be consoled by God’s trustworthy promises. Amen.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR – You’re invited to…
…the next “Visit with St. Paul” which will be on Sunday, August 9th, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, 210 Princetown Rd., Rotterdam. It will begin promptly at 2:30 PM, immediately following a Holy Hour. Afterwards, the parish annual Festa continues, so be sure to plan on staying to enjoy the music & food!