I would like to thank all of you on behalf of my family for all of your prayers and support over this last week and a half. It has truly been overwhelming to hear of all the prayers offered up, from New York and Florida to Seattle and California, from Avila France to Calcutta India. Words cannot express how much your prayers have meant to us, or how helpful it has been. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to get through such a tragedy without this immense support. Thank you Bishop Kemme for celebrating this memorial Mass for my brother, we also want to thank all the priests for being here today, all my brother seminarians, and all family and friends in attendance; besides this Mass being offered for Brian, it also offers us consolation and a certain amount of closure.
Originally I declined the offer to preach this homily, but after several days went by and after praying about it, I realized it would be fitting. I was ordained less than two months ago, and one of the few things I can do as a deacon is preach…Brian would probably tell me, well, you better do your job. I can imagine Brian making two requests for his funeral, no eulogy and not to use the color white…I suppose I’ll grant him one of those requests. But God willing when I see him again, I’m going to give him a hard time. I’ll probably die an old man with only a few people to pray for me, Brian on the other hand has had thousands and thousands of prayers offered up, countless Masses offered for him, and numerous saints invoked. If he isn’t on the fast track to Heaven, I don’t know what he’s doing.
These prayers and support have been a true testament to everyone’s faith. Faith is the bedrock of our lives, the virtue by which we submit our intellect and will to God, the virtue by which we assent with our whole being to God. That’s exactly what we have all been doing during this difficult time, resisting the temptation to turn in on ourselves, or isolating ourselves from God. Just the opposite, all of us have been turning with our whole being to God, turning ourselves over to Him. Not seeking answers, because one, they wouldn’t make sense this side of Heaven; and two, answers wouldn’t remove the sadness we feel. But we turn to God because He has revealed to us that He loves us more than we can comprehend, and though He may seem distant, we have steadfast faith that the Lord is walking side by side with us, always there to lean on.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. We would not be praying, we wouldn’t be able to, if we didn’t have the utmost confidence in life beyond the grave. We don’t hope or wish for eternal life, we know it exists. We are a people of the Resurrection, and though this reality remains unseen, we know by the power and truth of God that it truly happened and that we participate in it through our sacramental life. It is by our faith and the sacraments that we are intimately connected, a bond that transcends family and parish. A bond that goes beyond our diocese, is not limited by state or country, nor even the grave. And for this reason we have faith that Brian is not separated from us, he simply has gone ahead of us. Which is why we can say with St. Paul, “in life and in death we belong to the Lord.”
It is because we belong to the Lord that we enjoy hope. Hope is not sentiment or wishful thinking, it is the habit by which we long for a good, stretching forth for a future good not yet attained. We would not reach out for a good unless it existed and was truly possible. We have hope in eternal salvation and for the reunion of our loved ones because it is indeed possible. Although not a given, and not easy, the Lord makes it possible, and that is why we have hope. And although the sadness we feel is so very real, and although it will not go away by tomorrow, we have well founded hope and prayers that Brian is on his way to our Lord, if he is not already there. This is why we do not give up, why we do not lose hope. It is what makes moving forward possible, it is what propels us onward amidst the pain and suffering we encounter here and now.
As a result of our faith and hope the age of a person when they are called form this life makes no difference. Don’t get me wrong, the death of a young person certainly seems unfair and is a source of grief. Does our Lord take pleasure in death, of course not? But a life of virtue and holiness readies a person regardless of age, which is why today’s first reading offers us comfort…”though he should die before his time, rest shall be his.” It offers us comfort, not answers, because as I said answers will not be easily found. My grandpa who is 95 years old sometimes asks what he is still doing here; perhaps Brian will be there to provide that answer when the time comes.
Finally, I’m sure the message of today’s Gospel was not lost on anyone here. “Stand ready, the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting Him.” This could have been a source of agony for us, but I believe it is just the opposite. Brian was a servant of our Lord, doing the work entrusted to him…serving our Lord as He came for a meal at the Lord’s Dinner, day in and day out. Brian was serving our Lord by faithfully answering God’s call to the priesthood, and although not brought to fruition, Brian diligently gave himself to seminary formation. He was a Christian gentleman, living a faithful life, ready to give his life at a moment’s notice. And just two hours before Our Lord called him from this earth, Brian met Him in the Eucharist at Holy Mass…preparing for the moment when our Lord would say, “well done good and faithful servant.”
The last time I gave a homily from this pulpit it was for a wedding. Towards the end of it I touched on the role of the couple in regards to future children and how they are to faithfully raise and educate their children in the faith…to bring God’s love to them and to direct them to Him. My parents gave my siblings and I our faith, they bring God’s love to us and they have always directed us to back Him. Mom and dad, you faithfully directed Brian to God and so as our Lord addresses Brian as His good and faithful servant…He will address you too with those same words one day.
For the Parish of St. Teresa
I would like to thank all of you who have been praying for my brother and our family. I am truly blessed to call St. Teresa's home this summer and sincerely appreciate the support you have offered me.
Thank you so much. Deacon Andrew
We are excited to announce that our parish has subscribed to a dynamic new online platform called FORMED. Every parishioner will have 24/7 access to the best Catholic content on any device, including your computer, smartphone and tablet with internet access. With FORMED you’ll find video programs that explain the Catholic faith, explore the deepest meaning of marriage, receive Bible studies on a variety of topics and includes inspiring audio talks. And you’ll find presenters like Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Edward Sri, Dr. Mary Healey, Chris Stefanick, Dr. Scott Hahn and a lot more. They’re all part of our parish subscription. It truly is the Catholic faith - on demand.
Here’s how easy it is to get FORMED:
If you have a smart phone, take it out right now. I’ll wait. Now go to www.FORMED.org. That’s W-W-W-DOT-F-O-R-M-E-D – DOT – O-R-G. You should see the registration box for parishioners. Now type in the parish code EFA4XJ. Now set up a username – whatever username you’ll remember - and a password. You can keep it simple now and change it later if you want. Now you are all set to use all the great programs on FORMED.org anytime by simply logging in. It is that easy!
Please check out the trailer on this website. Click on the "Faith Formation" tab above. Find "FORMED" double click on it and watch the trailer. There is so much you can do, watch and learn with this free gift!