Wednesday, September 26, 2012

funeral homily for Jenna Lee Riley-a message of hope

Everyone wants to be free. Freedom is one of the most cherished ideals in our nation. We live in the land of the free and the brave. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are two of our country's most treasured hallmarks. What about the freedom to be who we were created to be? Well, that is more difficult, and something rarely found. We all conform in one sense or another-dress, attitudes, likes, religion. For many religion is the ultimate conformity-adhere to an ethical code-a set of rules and regulations and you get to heaven. That is not Catholic Christianity and that is definitely not Jenna Lee Riley. I stress the word "is" because our faith tells us that we will live forever with Jesus if we have a personal relationship with him right here and right now. "Come, follow me" Jesus says. Jenna did. Whether it was comforting her friends, taking in a wayward soul, Jenna was living the Gospel. Why? Because the Gospel liberates-Jesus said "The truth will set you free" and if we follow Him we will be free. St. Paul speaks about the "glorious freedom of the children of God." There is great freedom in knowing Jesus Christ. Some of you undoubtedly may be saying "Well if this freedom is so great, how come it hurts so much?" For that question there are no easy answers. In fact, it may seem that the God who we speak about as love just doesn't seem to care or at least is not very interested. It is OK to feel that way. It is OK to feel angry. Someone very special has been taken from you. This is where the 2nd reading and the gospel give us such comfort. St. Paul says in St. Paul to the Romans: "But in all these things we overcome because of him who has loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height not depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is also where today's Gospel is so relevant. The friends of Jesus were walking away sad, grief stricken, full of questions, just like many of you. But something very special happens. Jesus himself draws near. At first they do not recognize him ( I like to think he was wearing Groucho Marx glasses, or maybe those goofy glasses Jenna was wearing in the pictures at Spencer Funeral Home) But there is something about him-the tone of his voice....and they invite him in. As they break bread, as they open the scriptures and celebrate the eucharist they see it is really Him! He is still with them! "Stay with us!" they say. "Stay with us, Jenna" Because of Jesus and the power of the resurrection and his promise of everlasting life, she has. Her mom Lisa said that every night she would read from St. Paul's letter to the Phillippians. This epistle is known as the epistle of joy. What is so ironic is that it was written by a man who was in prison chained to a pillar. How could he write a letter of joy? Because of the freedom he found in Jesus Christ. God promised He would not leave us orphaned. He promised to send us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. the next time you look at a crucifix look into the eyes of your savior. Look into the eyes of the God who sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemani. Behold the scourge marks all over his body. They mocked Him, spit upon Him, placed a crown of thorns on his head-and He endured it all to prove His love for you and for me. My prayer is that each and every person will leave here today full of hope. The world is a better place because Jenna Lee Riley touched the lives of everyone here. As you leave consider the words from the musical Carousel: "When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark. Walk on , Walk on, with hope in your heart, You'll never walk alone." Because of Jesus Christ none of us walks alone. Today, Jenna is walking with Jesus Christ!