Sunday 5th November 2000
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What a place of wonder the Church is. We do not always perceive it clearly; but in the Church things get transfigured, transformed, from darkness into light, from bitterness into sweetness.
I have been thinking particularly in this context with bereavement. How many of our parishioners, how many people whom we hardly knew, died, and then were brought here, because this was ultimately their home. They had lost their country. They had lost their families, their nearest, their dearest; and they had lost their lives. And they were brought here by people who loved them, who loved them dearly, who thought they would spend all their lives saying words like the words of the poet who says: oh, for the touch of the vanished hand, for the sound of the voice that is still. How many thought this would never happen again? And yet it happened, not materially, but in a transfigured, transformed manner.
How many have come with tears to accompany their beloved ones on the day of their funeral, and how many have become one with the prayer of the Church whose Lord, Jesus Christ, had died, died, leaving behind Him a Mother, disciples, friends who suddenly discovered that Christ had risen, that He was alive.
This is a promise addressed to each of us: that the day will come, when like Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, everyone who died on earth will rise in Heaven.
But what of the interval, the time between the death and the funeral when we can shed tears over our being left orphans, and the beloved one no longer being able to rejoice in the beauty of the world which God has created and in the beauty of mutual love and friendship? What then?
And here I must remember, and I want to share with you, words which hit me very deep in the heart spoken by a friend of mine. He had been married, he had children, he was very close to his wife; they loved one another faithfully and deeply. And then she died. Her funeral sounded like a victory, because it was surrounded by love, by veneration, and by the certainty which we all brought that one day victory will shine out of the grave, as it had shone out of the grave of Christ. And the husband, after years, speaking to me of his wife, of their happiness, of his bereavement, and what he had discovered, said to me: 'While we both were alive on earth we were at one in all things. But now that she has died it's not a question of being at one; we have become one. All that is her eternal life in God she shares with me, mysteriously. We meet in prayer, we meet in sacraments. We simply meet with undying faithful love. And what was two together has become now one, inseparably one for eternity.'
And this is one of the most wonderful miracles that occurs in the Church – in the Church as understood as the place where God and man are at one, where God gives Himself unreservedly to us if we only open our hearts to Him. And if we do this, bereavement becomes transfiguration: the transfiguration of a beautiful, deep, holy relationship into something that is already now shining with the glory of eternity.
Let us therefore think of our bereavements in those terms. Let us remember the transfiguration of a love that was deep, total, committed into a love that has conquered death itself and will reveal itself one day, on the Day of the Resurrection, with perfect glory; but is now life eternal given to us, conveyed to us, shared with us, by the person who has already entered into the plenitude of eternal life. Amen.