It was March 19, 2018 that we were gathered here for the service for Dave, Betty’s husband for more than 70 years. At that time I shared with you a story that comes to us from around the year 125 A.D.: a Greek philosopher by the name of Aristides wrote to Hadrian, who was the Emperor, trying to explain the extraordinary success of the new religion, Christianity. In his letter, Aristides speaks of the faithfulness and righteousness of the Christians, how they treat others fairly, how they worship and pray, and even how they respond to the death of another Christian. He wrote, “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they accompany his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.” (From The Apology of Aristides)
“… as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”
Jesus tells us that he is going to prepare a place for us and so often we think that place is up there… far off beyond the stars, but I really don’t think the place he takes us is really all that far off. In fact, I think it is as close as right here. Just a thin veil’s width away. I say that because it seems that Jesus is often so close and the same is true with his Mother, Mary, and… the same is also true with all those that have gone before us. You can “feel” their closeness and therefore know that they are still very near… just beyond that veil.
That might sound a bit spooky to some and give rise to concerns about ghosties and the likes, but to those who understand that in death “life has changed, not ended”, it is a comfort and a blessing, because it means that we still have access to those who have gone before. We can know that they are still very much a part of our lives and in fact, since they are now closer to throne room of our God, can provide even greater assistance to us now than ever before.
Consider the words of St. Teresa of Lisieux, “My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” If one such as Teresa will shower us with blessings, then imagine the benefits of the blessings and prayers we shall receive from those who are so close to us, such as our mother and father and others… such as Betty.
Today, we mourn the loss of Betty, but we are joyful and give thanks that she has entered into her Heavenly reward. A place that has been prepared for her by her Savior, Jesus. We give thanks that she has been reunited with Dave and all those that have gone before us, but we also give thanks that she is also still so very near to us, continuing to love all those that she loved while still on this side of that thin veil.
As we read, the Prophet Isaiah said:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
That is a feast that all who call on the Name of the Lord will be invited to take part in. It too is a place that has been prepared for us. Until that day, when we all come together at that joyous celebration, know that those who have gone before you have not left you here alone. They are ever watching over us and they speak to the Father on our behalf; and on the day that we are called into God’s Kingdom, they—along with our Savior, Jesus—will greet us and welcome us to our true home.