Saturday, August 11, 2012


Funeral Mass of Mary Tan Ah Ong
Strong Bones

Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9; 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1; John 5:24-29
Picture: cc Trace Meek

Dear friends, although we may not think about it very much, there is a truth that we all know very well, and accept without doubt. The truth is this: just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean it does not exist. When we stand in front of a mirror, for example, apart from the clothes we may be wearing, what we see is nothing much more than our skin. Even our hair and our nails are just hardened skin. But does this mean then that our body is made up only of skin? Of course not. The skin is just that part of our body that we can see. Underneath the skin, there is also our flesh. And, even more important, our bones.

Our body is made up not just of skin, but of flesh and bone as well. Even though we don’t usually see our bones, we know they are there. And we know how important they are. Although our skin is crucial for protecting our body, and for helping us to appear attractive to others, it is really our bones that hold us up. And our bones will remain even long after we have died, and the skin and flesh have disappeared. What is more, if we want to have a healthy body, we need to take care of our bones. We need to be sure, for example, that our diet contains enough calcium, so that our bones remain strong. Otherwise we may end up with a condition known as osteoporosis. Our bones become so weak and brittle that they break very easily. Just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean it does not exist. Just because something is out of sight, doesn’t mean we don’t have to care for it.

This is true not just of our skin and our bones. Those of us who are Christian recognise something similar in the rest of life as well. In life as a whole, there are also things that are seen, and things that are unseen. And, here too, it is the unseen things that are more important. So the second reading speaks to us of the difference between the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Although, like our skin, the things that are visible last only for a time, the invisible things, the bones of our inner self, last much longer. They are eternal.

Which is why the first reading can say that even if good people may appear to die. Even if they may seem to us to be no more. This is only what we can see with our naked eyes. In actual fact, something else, something unseen, is going on. These same people are in peace. Although, outwardly, it may seem that they have experienced nothing more than pain and suffering and death, inwardly, they have been going through something else. God has been purifying them like gold in a furnace. Through their sufferings, God has been burning away every trace of selfishness. So that they can enjoy true love and happiness with God forever.

But if this is true. If it is really the case that the unseen things are the ones that are more important. The things that last forever. Then what can we do to care for them. We care for our bones by making sure we get enough calcium. But what can we do to care for our inner self? The self that lives forever? Our gospel reading gives us the answer by reminding us that God the Father, who is the source of life, has made Jesus the Son the source of life. And that whoever listens to the words of Jesus and believes in God has eternal life. Such a person has passed from death to life. In other words, to care for our inner self, our unseen self, we need to believe in Jesus. We need to trust in his words. We need to live our lives according to his teachings. And when we do this, then our inner self, our invisible life, becomes strong. And even if, outwardly, we may suffer and die, inwardly, we enjoy the fullness of life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Isn’t this why, sisters and brothers, we have chosen to call our gathering here this afternoon a celebration of life? What we are doing here is something more than an expression of sorrow for a loved one who has left us and gone away. We are doing more than simply mourning someone who was here for a time, and now is no more. What we are doing here is far more even than a calling to mind of happy memories. Memories of events that took place in the past, but are now no more. Although it is important to do such things. We are gathered here to do something more.

For all these actions–mourning and remembering–focus only on things that are past, things that are seen. Yet, as our readings remind us, we are gathered here today, to focus also, and especially, on the things that endure. On the things that are unseen. We believe that, because our beloved sister, Mary, lived and died a Christian life, because she lived and died according to the teachings of her Lord and Master Jesus the Christ, she is now enjoying peace and eternal happiness. This is the life that we are celebrating today. Not just something in the past that is now no more. But something that continues on into the future. Something that will remain forever. Today, even though our hearts may be breaking with sorrow because we no longer see our beloved sister, Mary, we also dare to rejoice. We dare to celebrate that which is unseen. The life that we believe Mary to be living. The life that is eternal. For just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean it does not exist. And, just as important, just because something is out of sight, doesn’t mean we don’t have to care for it.

Sisters and brothers, even as we celebrate, perhaps the question we might ask ourselves today is this: What can we do to care for our own unseen life? What more can we do to care for our bones today?

1 comment:

  1. Father Chris, thanks for a good homily about coping with loss in times of bereavements... thanks for the helpful spiritual gems as i struggle to cope with loss and bereavements - especially for those whom i hold dear to my heart. Pax et Bonum

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