Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homily for Funeral of Helene Lorenzo

Homily for the Funeral
of Helene Lorenzo
July 24, 2014
Rev 14: 13
John 6: 51-58
Salesian Missions, New Rochelle              

Helene Gaito Lorenzo worked as the province’s bookkeeper for some 30 years. She retired around 1996 and wanted her funeral rites celebrated here if possible, which her loving family was all in favor of, as well. In the absence of the director of the community (on vacation), the task/honor fell to his vicar, your humble blogger.

[I hope to have a photo of Mrs. Lorenzo eventually.]

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.  Yes, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them” (Rev 14: 13).

A little less than 2 weeks ago, the Salesian Sisters were celebrating their jubilarians, the sisters professed for 40, 50, 60, 65, even 70 years.  Fr. Jim Heuser began the serious part of his homily—his homilies never begin seriously—by observing why we were there:  not because we love the Salesian Sisters, but because God loves the Salesian Sisters.

That apropos here, too.  Yes, we’ve come because we loved Helene Lorenzo and because she loved us; but the more fundamental reason we’re here is because our Lord Jesus loved Helene and continues to love her.

The Lord Jesus loves all of us, of course—each of us individually and all of us together as his people.  He showed his love for Helene, in particular, by calling her to belong to him in his Church—calling her in Baptism to enter the mystery of his death and the resurrection, inviting her to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man” in the Eucharist (John 6:53), forgiving her sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Helene lived in the Lord every day, and so she was fully prepared to “die in the Lord” when her days ended and she passed over, we trust, in Jesus’ love, to the endless day where God has destroyed death forever and wiped the tears from all faces (Is 25:8).

The Lord Jesus showed his love for Helene by working thru her.  The works that accompany her as she goes to the Father are the works she did in the power of Jesus, day by day, as she lived in the Lord:  works such as her 44-year marriage and her family life.  While she and John weren’t blessed with children of their own, she was a mother figure to many of you, and perhaps for a few priests and brothers as well.  At one point, Jesus compared himself to a mother hen in his concern for the people of Jerusalem (Matt 23:37), and we may say that Helene had a like concern for so many people—a work that accompanies her.

Most of Helene’s working life was done for religious institutions, mainly the Salesians.  Her work wasn’t a job but a ministry, a way of serving the Lord Jesus by helping, indirectly, young people in schools and youth centers and immigrants and other needy folk in our parishes.  Helene’s office work underpinned much of what the Salesians were able to do for the young and the poor during the 30 years that she kept our books, as well as supporting church ministry earlier at OL of Victory, and even what the public authorities did for the poor in Mt. Vernon.  No doubt, in her last years she sustained our ministry with her prayers.  These works, done in and with Christ, accompany her as she goes to the Father.

The root meaning of the word liturgy is “public service.”  Liturgy is a kind of work, the best of works.  It’s primarily the work that God does—saving us thru the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in which we participate when we celebrate the Eucharist and the other sacraments.  Helene’s lifelong, faithful participation in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, is another good work that accompanies her to the Father.  Jesus accompanies her to the Father, with his promise, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (or her).  … The one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:56-57).

“Blessed,” indeed, “are those who die in the Lord….  Let them find rest from their labors” (Rev 14:13), eternal rest, in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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