By Jerry Franzen St. Henry, Elsmere, KY 2/23/12
Isaiah 58: 6-11 Romans 8: 28-35, 37-39 Matthew 25: 31-46
Fr. Ryan and Helen, I am honored to have this opportunity
to share some thoughts with all of you,
thoughts about the Good News of Jesus Christ
at this time of sorrow. I thank you.
Helen, daughters Marian and Susan, son David, brother Pete,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren
and all the members of the extended Foster family,
I join you in your sorrow;
there now is a void, a place once occupied by Ray.
On behalf of Fr. Ryan, Fr. Nibi, Fr. Barth,
the staff and members of this parish,
I offer you our consolation,
a consolation that, I hope, will help you to know
that Ray’s presence will continue among us.
And how will that happen? Only through God’s love for us.
God can continue to make Ray present to us in many ways,
And He will.
For we believe that our God is a loving God.
God found ways to show his love for us through Ray
while he was among us.
We each have the task of bringing God’s love to each other,
Ray did this when he was alive, whether he knew it or not,
and I believe
that we will continue to bring God’s love to others,
because we knew Ray as an example of how to do God’s will.
When I was asked to preach at this funeral,
of course, my first thought was “What will I say?”
“How can anything I say be the right thing on this sad occasion?”
The answer to those questions
comes from the answer to a further question:
“What will God have to say on this occasion?”
We have just heard God speak
and I had a preview of what God’s wprds would be .
Today’s readings, what God had to say, are powerful;
they are filled with hope.
In the second reading, St. Paul wrote to the Romans that,
“all things work for the good for those who love God,
those who are called for his purpose.”
God, in his infinite love for us, gave us His Son for our salvation.
If we have someone like that on our side,
how can we possibly be afraid of those against us?
Nothing can separate us from the love of God,
not death, life, angels, principalities, or really any other obstacle.
Notice death was at the head of the list.
When we die, God’s love for us continues,
In death there is a separation from other humans,
but we must be sure to know
that death does not separate one from God’s love.
That there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God
gives us all hope for eternal life with God.
The first reading, in the words of the prophet Isaiah,
tells us what God wants in return.
It specifically mentions fasting,
but while fasting, depriving ourselves of some food, is a good thing,
and we do deal with that during this, the Lenten season,
what God really wants is the fasting that occurs
when we deprive of ourselves
by sharing our time to free those oppressed,
by sharing our bread with the hungry,
by sharing our shelter with the homeless,
by sharing our clothing with the needy.
God designed us to be able to do these things;
That, too, supports our hope in life eternal
And the Gospel passage explains
that when we do these things out of love for our neighbors,
we do them for God.
What we do in charity for others, we actually do for God.
We don’t do things for God directly;
that would be difficult, trying to deal with God directly.
So He gave us an easy way:
we look to our neighbors and meet their needs.
These three pieces of scripture were beautifully chosen for this Mass:
1. to tell us of the infinite love God has for us,
and that all we have to do is to love Him in return.
2. to tell us what God expects in that love for Him.
3. to tell us that we actually love God
when we show our love for our neighbors.
That is my take on what God just spoke to us in the readings.
But how do these readings apply to us who are grieving the loss of Ray, our friend, our family member.
I mentioned earlier the beauty of these readings.
I see that beauty in the composite image we get
of our relationship with God.
They give us hope that Ray is at the eternal banquet with God,
and that our present sorrow
will eventually be turned to joy for Ray.
The readings give us the true guide to how we should live,
if we expect to be at that same eternal banquet,
if we expect to be with God in heaven.
It may seem simple, because the guide is written down in God’s word.
That’s a start, but not good enough.
Someone can write down how to play the violin;
a book of instructions may be good and even necessary,
but alone, such a book will not be sufficient
for our learning to play that instrument.
We need someone to show us how – a teacher.
We recognize Jesus as the ultimate teacher,
as he has showed us so many ways that we can serve each other.
But Jesus is not bodily here
to show us by his actions how to love God
through loving others.
We know that we are here for each other;
each of us has the responsibility to provide that instruction
to others by our example.
Each of us has the responsibility of the teacher.
In Ray Foster, I saw a man
who was a wonderful example to others of all ages.
If you really wanted to know how to get to heaven,
Ray was one to emulate.
I met Ray through “Workcamp”
which was a joint St. Paul – St. Henry youth ministry
summer mission trip to Appalacia.
I saw Ray as a person who loved his neighbors,
whether they lived in a trailer on the side of a hill in Floyd County,
whether they were chaperones who weren’t exactly sure
why they were in Appalacia building a sturdy porch
onto a house that was about to fall down,
whether they were youth ministers
who didn’t quite do things the way
Ray thought they should be done,
or whether they were teenagers who didn’t have a clue
about where to find that left-handed hammer
in the toolbox.
Ray loved us all; he was a quiet and patient teacher for all of us.
He was an example for me of how
I should act in patience as a part of that group.
It was evident to me that Ray loved us all,
because he knew of the great love God had for him.
At the beginning of this homily, I said that there is the consolation that,
though there is now a void once filled by Ray
Ray will always remain with us.
That might immediately call to mind memories.
But, it actually goes beyond our memories.
He will remain with us in the ways that he has helped each of us
to better show our love for God
though our love for our neighbors.
I am sad that Ray has died,
but I am so happy that our paths crossed enough
that some of his quite patience
and his desire to give OF his life for the youth
has rubbed off on me.
That’s exactly the way that God worked through Ray
and wants to work through each of us.