Jesus on our Life’s Course — Funeral Homily for Helen Kellen, 97

Helen has been close to St. Paul’s Parish her whole life. She was born in our community, educated in our school, married in our church, and became a daily Mass-goer who lived across the street from here for many years. Today, St. Paul’s Parish is honored to offer our most powerful prayer, the Holy Mass, for the perfection of Helen’s soul and for the peace of all of you who love her. Her family has told me a number of things about her life. Certainly not the most important detail, but one which stood out to me, was Helen’s intense desire to win the family golf tournament. Her parents, Frank and Mary Seibel, began an annual family reunion which still gathers here in Bloomer. For more than 30 years, a part of these festivities has been a golf scramble at the local 18 holes. More than a dozen teams of four compete to have their names immortalized on the coveted family trophy.

If you’re not familiar with what a golf scramble tournament is like, everyone on a team tees off, then they choose the best hit ball among them. Each player on the team takes their next shot from that new spot, and so on and so on, hopefully getting closer to that flag on the green until they can sink a ball into the cup. The teams do this for every hole and whichever team has the fewest best swings at the end of the day, wins. The great thing about playing on a golf scramble team is even if you’re not that good your teammates can carry you, and you can occasionally positively contribute as well. Maybe it was growing up around eight siblings, but for whatever reason Helen was fiercely competitive and she very much wanted to get her name on that two-foot, family tournament trophy.

Here’s a theological question for reflection: did Jesus Christ ever golf? History’s earliest reference to the sport only dates back to 1457. That’s when King James II of Scotland banned the popular pastime in his realm, preferring his subjects practice archery instead to be better prepared for times of war. So Jesus of Nazareth, living more than a millennium before, almost certainly never played the links growing up in the Holy Land. But what if Jesus were to play golf now, how good a golfer would he be?

I suspect, if he were to play golf today, Jesus might be the greatest golfer of all time. He possesses an advantage no professional golfer has ever had: his human nature is raised to glory. Jesus’ soul wields perfect control over his glorified body so he could hit each swing exactly as he wished. Par 5? The risen Christ could get it on the green in one. When Jesus resurrects the holy dead on the Last Day “the victor will inherit these gifts” as well, as the Book of Revelation says. But what if Jesus would have played golf during his lifetime before his Passion, death, and Resurrection? How good would he have been then?

In those days, though he was divine, Jesus emptied himself, limiting his almighty power in accord with the Father’s will and their shared plan to save humanity. He had the ability to work miracles but he usually did not use them. When he was tired, he took naps. When he hungered, he ate meals. And when he suffered, he wept. So Jesus knows what it’s like to be one of us. He knows how we struggle. Even the best pro-golfers in this world usually miss their shots.

Being a Christian is like having Jesus Christ on your golf scramble team. The fearsome foursome opposing us is darkness, sin, condemnation, and death, and they would always beat us if Jesus were not on our side. When we miss our shots due to our weakness or our own chosen faults, Jesus can carry us. And sometimes our efforts actually do positively contribute to the mission we share, which is the salvation of the world. Jesus and his friends are the best companions for us to walk with along life’s course. And if we remain on his team without wandering off, or return to his team before reaching the clubhouse, Jesus Christ will lead us to victory with himself.

Eventually, Helen and her teammates did finally win the family reunion golf tournament and her name shares in the minor glory of being immortalized on the family trophy. But for Helen and ourselves, let us pray that our names may attain the surpassing glory of being written in God’s Book of Life forever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: