Friday, June 1, 2012

Funeral for Ray Torresan

"I'm at peace with my Maker and everyone else."

Isn't that just like an advertising man—to write the best line at his own funeral? Ray has stolen my thunder.

Of course it isn't really the very best line—because the words we've just heard from the Bible, chosen by the family, are richer still. They contain specific promises, consoling promises, the same ones that gave Ray the strength to live his life—and face his death—with such conviction and, ultimately, hope.

The first reading is as close as anyone of us will come to seeing heaven this side of the grave. St. John's vision of the Kingdom of the Lamb of God offers a spectacular glimpse of the life to come… and reminds us that there are no more tears in that Kingdom, where there is no place for pain and none for sorrow.

The second reading might appeal to those who are a bit more skeptical. St. John admits that we don't know exactly what life in heaven will be like. But what we do know is that we will be like God. For to see God is somehow to be taken up into His very being. For now, we rejoice that we are His children, and we wait with patience to know Him fully.

The Gospel connects all of this. The Scripture scholar Scott Hahn thinks that the Book of Revelation—where our first reading came from—holds the key to the Mass. Or, if you prefer, he suggests that the Mass is the key to the Book of Revelation. The heavenly wedding feast has already begun… right here, at the Lord's table. Right here, at this Mass, as I suggested earlier.

Ray received the Eucharist as living bread. He received the Eucharist with faith in its promise. He was at peace with his Maker and everyone else, for a number of reasons, but one of them was simply that he took Jesus at his word. Ray ate the flesh of the Son of Man, and drank his blood, believing it was the source and hope of eternal life, of resurrection on the last day.

He came to Mass in good times and in bad, arriving here on more than one occasion in a wheelchair. His unity with Jane—which I need not remind you about, if you knew them as a couple—was strengthened, even cemented, as they received the Eucharist together.

Ray cannot have been perfect. He was, after all, in advertising and politics. (I can say that since I was once a lobbyist, and we rank behind politicians!) He was an Italian boy from the East side, and I don't think you were even allowed to be perfect on the East side.

He was, on the other hand, good. Good in so many ways, some of which you've already heard about, others of which you know from your own experience. He was a faithful servant of his Church and his community, sharing his time and talent and treasure generously over many years.

But in his illness he was more than good. The word that sprang to my mind was "noble." In fact, I confess that I more than once found myself thinking of a line from Shakespeare: "this was the noblest Roman of them all." I knew it wasn't coming from the Holy Spirit, who surely knows Italian geography, but I think it was prompted by the enormous dignity and—to use an often-misunderstood word—piety that Ray showed in times of trial.

Ray had great times, joyful times, and tough times. Jane and his family were behind him and beside him, and now have the sadness of life without him. But with him we sing "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb." 

And for him we claim the promise "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

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