Glimpses of Heaven — Funeral Homily for Ione Ellis, 90

I wish to offer my sympathies and condolences on behalf of St. Paul’s Parish to you who love Ione. I’ve learned some beautiful things about Ione from her family. And the family has chosen beautiful readings for her funeral. The things of Earth partially reflect the things of Heaven. And the events of a life with Christ foreshadow—give a glimpse—of the life to come with Christ. Heed these words, “For,” as St. Paul told us in our second reading, “if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Ione grew up on a farm with many creatures in the countryside. After marrying Perry at the age of seventeen they made a home together on Bloomer’s 5th Avenue (which is a really nice sounding address). She never worked outside the home, but she worked hard at home, busy serving and not being served. Her devoted focus was upon her spouse and children. She and her husband were wedded through 50 years, through good times and in bad – as when she helped him endure his sufferings, first due to stroke and then finally from cancer. Ione has loved her family, and she has loved our God. She made rosaries and prayed rosaries. I’m told she had a prayer cove for years in her living room; with a kneeler and a candle. There she prayed for her children and worshipped God, as she likewise did here at St. Paul’s Church, where she sang in the choir for ten years, and participated in Christ’s Holy Sacrifice, the Mass.

Today we offer the Holy Mass for her soul and for all of you who love her. Though her passing is mourned, in the words of St. Paul, we “not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” In John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his Father’s house; that he is going to prepare a place for us, we who are God’s the Father’s children, who are the brothers and sisters of Christ. He will take us from among the many creatures of this earth, and move us to a new home for our spiritual adulthood and marriage, a home in the city… of God. In our first reading from the Book of Revelation, we heard St. John’s vision describe it: “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The Church is the bride of Christ, and her members the family of God. Then St. John relates how a loud voice declared from the throne:

Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.

And St. John observes these interesting details about Heaven:

I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.
The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gave it light,
and its lamp was the Lamb.

The intimacy we share with God now on earth, through prayer and sacrament and Christian living, through words and signs, seen as moments of lights peaking out amid darkness, in Heaven becomes an unmediated brightness that, like a shining city on a hill, cannot be ignored or hard to see. Heaven is the family of God together in the Father’s house, our hard toil and trials behind us, enjoying the joyful company of one another forever.

How shall we get there? Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So let us be faithful in our love toward him, honoring his passion, death, and resurrection in our worship and by our lives, and then he, the Good Shepherd, will help and lead through the dark valley of our own passion and death to the next life and the resurrection of these physical bodies of ours one day. We pray today for Ione’s soul, as is right and just, but “do not let your hearts be troubled.” Have faith in God and have faith also in Jesus, as faithful Ione would have you do.

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