Funeral Homily for Mgr Denis Edwards
In the time since Denis died I have seen things I had not experienced before: people I know in a certain way, now overwhelmed with tears they could not contain; strangers embracing each other in shared sorrow, my own grief welling up in unexpected moments.
All these moments have revealed the lines of love that run between us all, which we do not always see.…lines of love that vary in intensity and colour, but that bind us to every human person and to all creation.
They run even deeper, back 13.8 billion years to the beginnings of creation, and further still, to the Divine Communion of love from which everything springs.
They run forward too, weaving us into a future more glorious than we can conceive, returning us, with all creation to the great Divine Communion that is our faultless future.
These lines of love that have pierced us so painfully at Denis’ death are the reason why we are born… and the reason why we die…
This is the effective Word Isiah speaks of [Is. 55:10-11], the Word that brings us forth, the Word that speaks into every moment of our life, the Word that draws us forward into the great consummation of Divine Communion – the ‘peace’ or ‘pax’ to which our mothers and fathers in faith commended those who had died, as we commend Denis today in this Eucharist.
The Gospel we have just heard [Mk. 10:28-31] was read by Michael over Denis in the moments after his death as he lay surrounded by his family and a couple of us who could be there. It was the reading of that very day.
It follows Jesus’ saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. This saying which so astounded the disciples, makes every sense – wealth, surety, power, relationships that turn too easily into ugly dependency or control – are the walls we build against our fear that there might be nothing at the heart of things. They become our prisons.
When we glimpse the lines of love that draw us into eternity even now, we abandon those other things with joy as we lay hold of the one thing that matters – the pearl beyond price, the treasure above every treasure.
The beautiful man we commend to God today lived that mystery from his earliest days, placing himself at the service of love even as a child. His whole life was an openness to, a reflection on God’s effective Word.
He sought it in the dark mysticism of St John of the Cross and the transcendent mysticism of Karl Rahner. He found it early in the everyday realities of human experience. He discovered it in the story of our faith and its great seekers – Athanasius, Basil, Macrina, Karl, Beth and Francis… he discovered it in the ineffable mystery of creation, and he lived it in simplicity, humility, loving friendship and steadfast integrity every day of his life.
He pointed us to the grace at the heart of everything. He was our teacher, our guide, a friend beyond words and a true priest.
In recent times he spoke of weariness and limitation and we reflected together on this meditation on dying by Teilhard de Chardin SJ: ‘When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the illness that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the great unknown forces that have formed me: in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself… Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion.’
So what do we do?
We can do no better than to nurture the lines of love between us, to safeguard them tenderly, those lines that reach out between us to every human person in creation, to every wallaby and whale, to every cockatoo and eucalypt, toward the bright eternal future of Divine Communion.
What a wonder!
How glorious it is to be a human being, in the heart of creation, loved by God!
Fr Philip Marshall
March 12 2019
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