Pilgrim’s Ending

It was the end of Cesar’s pilgrimage.

I know Cesar’s wife, Bennie. She organizes pilgrimages and I have joined a couple of her many pilgrimages.

The Celebration of Life for Cesar seems to be a reunion all pilgrims. Cesar BanaresSuch a beautiful celebration. Listening to the homily of Fr. Abundo gave us more insight what is it to be faithful to our Faith. It was so moving.

I tried to record in shorthand what he was saying but there is just too much goodness in what he was conveying. Words get let lost in translation so I asked him for his transcript.

I promised Bennie that I will share Fr. Abundo’s homily.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We just heard the Gospel of St. John assuring all of us especially our beloved dead, Cesar, that he has a place for him in the kingdom of our Father in heaven. Cesar is happy today that all of us are at this Mass and praying for the eternal repose of his soul.

As we celebrate this funeral Mass for Cesar with his family and friends, we are given the difficult task of “standing out of the way.” We are invited to let go, to accept the finality and inevitability of death – not only of his death, but of our own and of death itself.

To let go does not mean to care less but to accept more.
To let go does not mean to deny but to embrace.
To let go does not mean to forget the past but to live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and trust more.

Cesar has already passed over that invisible line which separates life from death, but each of us is in the process of dying. Cesar’s death gives us the opportunity to discover the paschal mystery of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in our own lives. Our faith tells us that like the growing of a garden the natural process is one of life-death-new life.

Death finds its meaning in the hope of new life, not just for those who have died but for those of us who follow.

For Cesar life on this earth is complete and the process of his death opened up the mystery of eternal life. We are not yet invited to share that mystery, but we are invited to accept the certainty of our own death which will give meaning to the rest of our lives. By accepting this sacred invitation, this is our opportunity not only to stand out of the way of what must die but also to infuse energy and strength into our own lives.

What does it mean to “stand out of the way of what must die?”

We live in a death–denying culture which refuses to face the limitations of life. In our culture, death is for someone else, an accident, and an unnatural fact that needs an explanation. Death is to be avoided at all costs. It is not perceived of as a natural result of being born.

Death is our final human destiny. It is inevitable. Let us step aside and open ourselves to embrace it. Ironically, to admit death is to infuse energy and strength into our lives. It gives meaning to the paradoxical words of Christ “He who loses his life will find it.”

Facing our mortality, we become aware how precious life is no matter how precarious, fragile or tragic it may be. For the family and friends of Cesar, the months ahead will be unstable, delicate and sometimes heart-breaking. They will miss and feel the loss of Cesar’s physical presence, the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand and the warmth of his smile so deeply.

Let us not underestimate the pain of his loss. We encourage you to move totally into the pain and to support one another in the grieving process.

A philosopher says, “We exist most authentically when we remember that we are beings–toward–death.” To be human, we must die.

Just as the gardener learns that the stark cold days of winter hold the seeds of new life in spring so our faith in the passion and death of Christ hold the hope of resurrection. “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” That is the culmination of our faith which gives meaning to death.

Like Cesar, all of us have a deadline to keep. Once we are aware that we too have a deadline, we begin to move toward the last moment with purpose. Dying becomes for us not a moment in time but an ongoing process which gives life a new sense of meaning and urgency.

Cesar has offered each of us a sacred gift: the gift of his life and the gift of his death. Let us accept that gift with all the pain which it entails so that we may learn how to live more fully and die more graciously.

Let us continue to celebrate this funeral Mass before we finally bid farewell to Cesar. At Mass we recall and represent the death of Jesus Christ which broke the bonds of our own death; and we celebrate his rising victorious from his tomb, thus enabling us to share in his resurrection into eternal life. And so this Jesus our Saviour will once again be present among us.

Let us pray to our heavenly Father that our Saviour’s death may cleanse Cesar of his sins and give him eternal rest.

Let us pray for his bereaved family. Although faith gives the family great consolation and hope in the face of the death of their dear one, it does not remove all the pain of separation all at once. However, faith does enable them to accept the loss of their loved one and continue with their lives, confident that the departure it brings does not last forever.

Let us pray also for ourselves. We ask that Christ will strengthen our faith in his victory over death so that in our daily struggles and sufferings we may look forward to our own resurrection. For we know if we believe and live in Jesus we, too, shall never die. We will share in the new life of resurrection when we shall all be reunited in the Kingdom of our Father in heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen. And may his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in the peace of Christ. Amen.

Funeral Homily Cesar Bercasio  Banares
St. Theresa’s Parish, 5146 Laurel St. Burnaby, BC
June 26, 2015

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