A Redecorated Soul — Funeral Homily for Linda Gorka, 70

There’s a natural sadness from the passing of a loved one and added stress from life’s current strains. But there is profound consolation from our faith in Jesus Christ and we are blessed in our freedom to be able to gather here today. St. Paul’s Parish is honored to be offering our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for Linda’s soul and for all of you who know and love her. No mere homily could capture the full mystery of a human life; no brief homily can tell the fullness of the story of how Christ has shepherded Linda’s life. But a funeral homily can reveal something of what Jesus Christ has done, and does, in the lives of Christians.

Rodney tells me that Linda loved interior decorating. Though never formally trained, she had a talent for it — a creative flair. For holidays, especially the Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter, Linda’s house was transformed; nick-nacks here and there, wall and window coverings, all set the season; providing a pleasant backdrop when she would entertain welcomed guests at parties. She loved being a grand-hostess for her friends.

Another thing Rodney recollected to me is how the companionship between them helped them through each other’s serious health trials. She remained by his side, minded his meds, and drove him for treatments during his throat cancer nine years ago. And last year, Linda helped him through his recover from a bad car accident. Then, in this her final year, Linda received support and care during her purifying crucible experience of suffering with cancer. (Rodney wants to thank all those who helped before and after Linda death: her daughter Michelle and Arianne, son David, grandson Joe, friends Randy and Dawn, and others whom Rodney may have forgotten.) We believe, like St. Paul says, ‘this momentary light affliction is produced for her an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,’ because Linda died as a Christian with Christ.

Three weeks ago, I went to visit Linda in the hospital and did something I have never done before. Rodney had informed me that, though Linda believed in God and Jesus Christ, neither she nor her family members had any knowledge or evidence of her ever having been baptized. She was not speaking very much at that point, but when I asked her whether she wished to be baptized she answered that she did. I baptized Linda with water on her forehead right there in her bed, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” — a conditional baptism, ensuring that whether or not she had ever been baptized before, she was assuredly a baptized Christian after.

What is the meaning and purpose of all these trials of life? If this life were all there is, if Christ were not raised and all people and things were destined for unending death, our lives would have no enduring significance. But Jesus is risen, so this life is vitally important, yet it’s only the beginning of eternity, so the God allow trials to transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ, who often suffered with love and virtue. The famous Christian author C.S. Lewis once observed that, like Linda, God is something of a master interior redecorator as well:

Imagine yourself as a living house,” Lewis wrote, “God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

St. Paul writes that, “We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in Heaven.” And Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. …I am going to prepare a place for you… I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” And so, today, while we mourn Linda’s departing from us, we rejoice in her going to God. The journey of life through death to a next life awaits us all. Let us, each and all, respond to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd as one of his sheep, so that our story may be happily joined to his own great story forever.

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