Geraldine, Genghis, & John — Funeral Homily for Geraldine Halfman, 82

I would like to reflect with you today upon three people who have passed away. You have heard of all three, but you have only met one of them. Their names are Geraldine, Genghis, and John.

John lived a century ago. He made his fortune in American oil. Adjusting for inflation, he is considered the richest person in modern history and the wealthiest American of all time. He died at age 97, taking none of his money with him to the grave, leaving all his wealth behind.

Genghis lived eight centuries ago. He led conquering armies on horseback throughout Central Asia and reigned over one of the largest empires in history. He fathered so many children in his lifetime that an estimated 8% of all people living in that region of the world today are direct descendants of his. After many years of killing others, Genghis died himself, lost his throne, and left behind his empire to others.

Geraldine (or Gerry) was born in 1939. She conquered no lands. She never accumulated vast riches. She raised no biological children of her own. Her life’s most significant work may have been caring for her eldest sister. Gerry’s sister, Mary, became sick as a teenager from M.S. (multiple sclerosis) and needed ongoing care until her death at the age 70. Gerry spent decades living with and helping Mary; bathing her, dressing her, feeding her, and giving her worthwhile activities to engage with and enjoy. The world would encourage Geraldine to go off and live her own life but Gerry loved her sister as herself, as Jesus Christ and her Catholic Faith taught her to do. Geraldine died on her eighty-second birthday.

Geraldine, Genghis, and John are three very different people, who lived very different lives, but they share these things in common: all three lived, all three died, the souls of all three will have been judged, and all three of them will rise again. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God,” and “each of us shall give an accounting of himself to God,” and all the dead shall rise again on the Last Day.

What will be important at our Last Judgment? What will matter on the Last Day? Jesus tells us:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”

Remember that Jesus Christ is the measure of what matters. And in the end, every knee shall bend before him, either in resentful submission, as with the condemned, or in faithful love, as his holy ones.

Pray for Geraldine’s soul. Like gold in a furnace, she might still require the healing fire of God to purify her sin-wounded person into perfect flawlessness, so that God may take her to the fully-unveiled presence of his all-holy self. But do not fear for her, for in the words of the Book of Wisdom: “Those who trust in him shall understand truth, [including the truth about what is most important,] and the faithful shall abide with him in love. Grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.”

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