Funeral of Hazel Cacioppo
Jan. 24, 2017
John 6: 37-40
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.
“This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6: 40).
I have to have a warm spot in my heart for someone who was a fan 60of Ki-Ki Cuyler and Gabby Hartnett—who played way before my time but whose baseball cards I owned, from some kind of special Hall of Fame series, when I was a baseball-addicted kid in the early ’60s.
But as good and faithful as Hazel was—as mom, wife, Cubs fan, and disciple of Jesus—we don’t come to her funeral rites to celebrate her accomplishments. Rather, we come to this Eucharist, like all Eucharists, to celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God our Father. We come to celebrate the salvation won for us not by our deeds but by the deeds of Jesus Christ, his cross and resurrection and his gift to us of forgiveness. We come to ask humbly that the Father receive Hazel into his kingdom of eternal life thru the mercy won for us by Jesus; thru the pardon that she and all of us need for our inevitable moral failures, our sins.
Jesus said repeatedly that he came to do his Father’s will, and as we heard in the gospel a couple of minutes ago, it’s the Father’s will that everyone who believes in the Son, i.e., in Jesus Christ, should share in the eternal life that Jesus enjoys; that all Jesus’ followers should follow him into the resurrection on the last day, the day of judgment.
For there will be a last day—for everyone and, in God’s own time, for the whole created universe. There will be a day of judgment. For unrepentant sinners, that day will be, as the old funeral liturgy used to sing in fearful trembling, a dies irae, a day of wrath, a day of doom.
We have better hope, however, for Hazel, who tried to walk faithfully with Jesus thruout her long life. We have hope that the Holy Spirit given to her in Baptism stayed with her and is saying now, “Let her find rest from her labors, for her works accompany her” (Rev 14:13)—her work of keeping God’s law (it is hard work sometimes, isn’t it?), her work of adhering to Jesus, of daily prayer, of fulfilling her role as wife and mother, as businesswoman and librarian, as catechist, of loving and serving her neighbor.
“Grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect,” Wisdom says (3:9). “Elect” means “chosen.” God chose Hazel in Baptism to receive his grace and mercy, to be a holy one, a saint, by following Jesus—as he has likewise chosen us. It’s our prayer today that Hazel did that faithfully to the end. We know that Jesus was faithfully with her to the end thru sacramental anointing and thru the accompaniment and prayers of Charlotte and others. We pray that Jesus has seen her into her new home, her heavenly home, her place of rest and joy and light.