The Cardinal, the Angel, and Us — Funeral Homily for Joan Johnson, 88

By Fr. Victor Feltes

A Christian life like Joan’s contains many good memories. No funeral homily could recount them all. Today, I would like highlight two family stories from Joan’s life which connect the past and the present and point to our shared future. Did you know that a cardinal has visited St. Paul’s and that an angel been seen in this church? Their appearances were as characters in Christmas pageants when Joan’s beloved grandchildren were both students attending our grade school.

One year, little’s Casie role in the Christmas play was a bird, specifically a cardinal. Hers was a minor role, but grandma made her a major costume. Joan’s daughters, Debra and Terri, recall Casie in that great, red plumage, molting feathers as she walked down this aisle. At another Christmas pageant, McKenzie’s role was to be a little angel. Her mother had prepared a fine costume (which would prove to be only a first draft). When Joan saw it, she didn’t say anything. Joan has a sweet disposition, she is quiet, patient, and no complainer, but Joan desired greater glory for her beloved and set to work. The next day, McKenzie’s angel wings were significantly bigger than they were before.

Those stories connect the past to the present. Joan’s family still has that big, little angel costume, and Joan’s granddaughters, Casie and McKenzie, have grown up to be the lectors reading at her funeral at St. Paul’s Church today. These stories also point to our shared future as well. Our first reading from the Prophet Daniels foretells, “At that time… those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” In our Gospel, Jesus reechoes his plan: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Joan loves her family with a likeness to how Jesus Christ loves his. He is patient, he is kind. He is slow to anger and not a grumbler. But his intense desire is for our greater glory and he has set to work. Christ’s will is not to merely change our clothes but to transform us, not to make us birds or angels (for we shall always be human creatures) but to make us godlike, saints sharing in his resurrected glory.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities… that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Today we pray for Joan, that her fully-purified soul may enter God’s unveiled presence, and — seeing him as he is — she shall be like him, a glorious saint, dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. Never forget and do not doubt that the Lord desires the same for you. Christ calls you to possess his holiness. Jesus calls you to share his glory.

One Response to “The Cardinal, the Angel, and Us — Funeral Homily for Joan Johnson, 88”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    Yes! We are *all* created to become saints :)!

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